POST Online Media Lite Edition


Now it's clear: Offices exist where CEOs and middle managers are dictators

Ted Blackwater |
Yes, we know, the title sounds harsh but it is true.

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In this time of crisis when everyone and his dog is either locked in their house, save for those few who don't care for other people's health, an interesting thing happened: workers started to work from home and their companies didn't end in ruins. Imagine that: offices are empty but everything works well. How come? How, for God's sake, that can be?

All employees can be roughly divided in two groups: those who need to be on the factory floor and everybody else.

So, if you have to stand near the machine, you must, and nobody can do anything about it. But what about all other services in your company that work from their desks all day, every day? What about the marketing, accounting, analytics, planning, human resources?

There is one simple reason so many companies still have offices for workers that can work from home and it's called control.

When you are in the office your boss can physically see what you are doing, it can come to your desk and exert his power with known "We need that yesterday!" "Can we focus on work more?" "Let's go, people, let's go!" and with other commands we all know so well and which are just a symbol of power and have little to do with the real work.

If you are unlucky enough to work in an open office where you have no privacy whatsoever to focus on your client, you are on a good path to a tremendous stress. Take any research you want and you will see that open offices do not improve productivity, they bring it down.

This is a relict of old times when everybody though that a director must be a dictator to successfully run a company. Even if you have your own office, every now and then a boss above you will step in, interrupt your work with, if not else, "Is everything OK?"

Unfortunately, there are still many bosses and middle managers who think that yelling and constant physical control make them great managers. That is as far from the truth as it can be.

For a few decades now, there are tools companies use every day to control productivity, from reading mails to productivity trackers. Unfortunately, in many companies those in the office are still in a better position regarding promotions than their peers working from the distance. And that's a human nature to value more that what can be seen than that what's outside our visual field.

That all created an unhealthy environment and these days it becomes clear that companies can survive without a tremendous stress an office brings. But it demands a lot from managers.

It demands them to leave "I see you" philosophy and to embrace the idea that, from the company's point of view, no office has many advantages.

First, an office cost a lot of money. It is not reasonable to spend a lot of hard earned money just to have employees near. The cost may go from one digit to $100 per square feet, depending on the location, city and demands, and if you think about it, it really is not reasonable to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for that space if those workers have all means to work from the distance.

Then, we all know that most of us will travel one hour to work, and maybe even hours, which means many hours spent on nothing. The result is that you have workers that can't spend as much time home as they would want and that leads to workers that are not happy and their productivity suffers.

From the company's point of view, more travel means an increased risk of accidents, which in turn means sick leave and logistic problems for the company. Also, that means more expenses for the insurance and all kind of related costs.

Third, all meetings can be arranged using distant meeting tools and that means less time lost on often unproductive events. Well, not all of them are unproductive, but when you have an online meeting you still see everyone face to face so nothing's lost from that point of view. And since everyone's near their computers, it is easy to call a meeting.

Fourth, if you have a company in different countries you already use some tech to conduct meetings and business, so you have tools already in place. So, there is no reason why you can't do it home.

Fifth, if you think about it, what's the point to have accountants, planning division, marketing, analytics, human resources... in one place? There is no reason for that whatsoever. As a rule of thumb, any job that doesn't demand staying near the production machine, is a good candidate to become an online job. Every company should do its own thinking, but that's a good place to start.

So, why we still have offices that cost money and make our lives miserable? That's because some managers have to have everything under control, down to the smallest details, because they have little self-confidence and think that dictatorship leadership style is the only one possible. Everything in sight, everything under control, just orders, a lot of pressure, constant demands...

That's dictatorship, there is no nicer way to describe this.

We hope this situation with the virus will show even that a lot of work can be done without an office and that this is the time for a real change that will be good for both the companies and their workers.

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