According to the The Conference Board’s January 2010 findings, only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work (the lowest level recorded in the 22 years of the survey’s history). I think part of this dissatisfaction is the clinical and alienating American office culture, where you can’t be yourself and must blend into whatever culture your company has in order to retain your position.
Both freelancing and working in an office have their ups and downs. The grass always seems to be greener on the other side. Freelancers might miss paid days off, the socialization that happens in an office or raiding the well-stocked supply cabinet whenever they need something. Office workers probably wish they could wear sweatpants, eat lunch at home and take their shoes off whenver they wanted to.
Well, I put together a list of a few things that I enjoy as a freelancer that would convince me to work in an office again. I am not asking for a personal chef and limo service to and from work. These things seem pretty easy to accomplish, and if more companies would think about their employees as assets and human beings and try to establish a better work/life balance, I think people would be more satisfied with their jobs.
I’d go back to working in an office if … there were showers!
I am a cyclist, so I when I had an office job, I enjoyed biking to work. I also enjoyed using my lunch break to get out and take a walk. I wish I could have used the commute to bike harder and actually get my heart rate up. At lunch, it would be nice to go out for an hour-long jog or run. The shower would make this possible. Maybe employees would not have to pay for a gym membership this way, maybe they would bond over group exercise? Who knows?
I’d go back to working in an office if … there was open seating!
From the first day you start a job you can get a lay of the land and see who’s worked in a place the longest and who’s most important by where their offices or desks are. Seating hierarchies intimidate people from going to the top brass with a good idea. They also cause petty fights and jealousy if one person gets a window. Why not have open seating? Sit wherever you want, provide conference rooms and smaller quiet rooms for concentrating, give everyone a file cabinet or locker that rolls on wheels. Then you get marketing sitting next to IT, and the next thing you know BOOM a great idea is born out of a conversation they’re having together. Everyone is on a cell phone nowadays anyway. You could even get rid of the landline and give employees mobile devices so they can move about the office freely!
I’d go back to working in an office if … there was a nice place to eat and relax!
I hate eating lunch in an office. If employers made their kitchens and eating areas more appealing and welcoming (better lighting, perhaps a window?) it would keep employees happier. Communal seating in the dining area would also force employees to sit together and get to know each other. In many offices the lunch room looks like the continuation of the high school cafeteria with cliques of people sitting together every day and no intermingling. You will also find many employees eating at their desks and working through lunch. There should be a policy against this, encouraging people to get up, talk, eat, walk around, go outside … it’s better for productivity in the long run. Throw in a couch or two and you’ve got a lounge, much better than a stodgy conference room for celebrating that big sale or someone’s birthday.
If people felt natural and relaxed in the office, they might do better work and be happier. What do you think? What would you change about the average American office environment?