The new, self-organizing workplace | Computerworld

More than 20 years ago, I joined an internet startup that had some unconventional ideas about the workplace that deserve revisiting as offices begin to reopen across the U.S.

The company had no requirements for employees to come into the office. Even people who lived within a comfortable commuting distance could work remotely full-time if they wanted. Most showed up no more than a couple of days per week; there were no set hours, either. Job expectations were defined by outcomes which, for people in my group, had little to do with the time of day. There was also no vacation policy. Employees were free to take as many days off as they wanted because no one was counting.

Over time I came to appreciate the brilliance of this lackadaisical approach to management. My task was to hire 50 people in less than 18 months on a tight budget during the lowest unemployment levels in 30 years. I discovered that there were pockets of outstanding people who were being completely ignored by the labor market.

One was young mothers. Many had family responsibilities that made a 9-to-5 schedule difficult or impossible to keep, particularly for those who lived more than an hour away. About one-quarter of the people I hired during that time fell into this category. Most were more than willing to trade salary for flexibility, and they were some of the most dedicated and capable people I’ve ever worked with.

Another was people who had to make the life choice to settle far away from major metropolitan areas. Not all relished the gig economy, and they were happy to trade some upside on income for a job that promised a steady paycheck and benefits without sacrificing their sanctuaries in the woods.

I also discovered something counterintuitive about vacation time: When people were given complete discretion, they took less time off. The policy also avoided a problem I had wrestled with at my previous company, where many long-term employees were forced to fulfill vacation quotas late in the year and leave us shorthanded.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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