Gone are the days when “office” signified punch cards, uniforms and cookie-cutter cubicles. Office culture has evolved into a more comfortable space. And why should it not, considering we spend a majority of our conscious time working itself.
A restrictive work environment has been linked to lower productivity, higher employee disengagement and attrition rate. It can also curb the creativity of the employees resulting in underutilization of human resources. Consider this, if organizational culture is built on rewarding its people for getting the best results, isn’t it unfair to expect them to work the same? Unlike most resources, humans are probably the most volatile and heterogenous and they should be treated the same.
Many feel that a relaxed workplace simply means not having a formal dress-code. However, it goes far beyond that. It is more about providing the employees with incentives to perform and get results rather than placing rules and regulations to restrict how they get there.
Casual office culture is by no means a recent trend. It emerged in the west in the 50s-60s as a cheap way to boost employee morale during an all-round economic recession. Casual Fridays can be traced back to Hewlett-Packard in the 50s. This trend also gave rise to various clothing brands launching their smart-casual lines. Now more businesses are choosing to let go of their restrictions on dress-codes entirely. Google, for example, has kept its dress code as “Must wear clothes”.
Apart from the dress code, the overall atmosphere of the new-age workplace is evolving. Options like work from home, Flexi-timings and moving desks are giving more power and comfort to the employee making them more efficient.
Being more comfortable and relaxed also proves to be a big morale booster for the employees. It can encourage self-expression, employee engagement and individuality. This office culture also gives greater power to the employee. Giving them the autonomy to make decisions as they see fit. It also holds them accountable for the decisions made. It is a two-way street. Trusting the employee also results in an increase in trust the employee has on the organization. This makes for a more efficient and fluid system where micromanaging takes a back seat. One of the leading causes of increase in attrition rate is that the new generation feels less challenged and gets bored with the work faster and easier. Giving them the power to understand and handle the situation in their own way as opposed to just following orders can go a long way in giving them a challenging and engaging role.
Everything needs a balance and the same holds true for office culture as well. While rigid formal cultures might be becoming a thing of the past. How casual is too casual? For client-facing roles, it can be said that maintaining a certain image is imperative, and for roles requiring out of the box and creative thinking granting a little more freedom is suitable. Finding that balance is the key.