Change is part of our life, and thus it’s also a natural process in the ways we work. For various reasons, many individuals perceive certain “working standards” as immutable. Statements like “it’s always been this way” or “we’ve always done it this way” inhibit change processes and foster progress-resistant beliefs.
It’s worth knowing that what mostly shapes our lives are habits. 40% of our actions aren’t made consciously but they’re just habits. We’ve been doing it for a long time so we’ll just continue, right? It seems natural!
Outdated workplace schemes
There are so many outdated practices that we keep repeating at work just because they’re considered “standard”. Most of them aren’t really relevant to modern ways of working, the digital era or even productivity. Here are some of them:
Annual performance reviews
Did you know that the conventional performance review originated during World War II? It drew inspiration from the US Army’s method of ranking its top-performing soldiers. Corporate environments later embraced structured appraisals, influenced by this military practice. The problem today is that flexible, technology-powered workplaces don’t have much in common with the army. How can we ensure that our team’s performance is great if we tend to evaluate it once a year? That’s a total no for flexible working and digital collaboration.
The 9 to 5 working schedule
The modern 9-to-5, eight-hour workday was conceptualized by American labor unions during the 1800s. Its widespread adoption occurred, particularly with Henry Ford’s endorsement in the 1920s. Why? Because previously no labor laws existed, and workers used to work 100 hours per week. Hence, working limits were introduced to protect industrial workers. Sadly, today the 9-to-5 approach is often associated with mandatory office attendance, mouse movement tracking, or clocking in and out. The original concept of doing it “for the people” somehow got lost…
Tall office buildings are a synonym of work
Due to urbanization, skyscrapers were built to accommodate a larger workforce or more residents. Their goal was to reduce housing costs, level inequality, and allow more people to live in the city. Well… what a beautiful perspective – equal opportunities for everyone to be in the spotlight, right? Today, that’s not the case anymore. Ever-increasing costs of living, long commutes, toxic pollution, extreme population density decrease the quality of people’s lives. Again, the general concept was great, but since we live in the digital era and can connect with the whole world within seconds…
Having to move to big cities for work shouldn’t be the case anymore.
Physical presence means performance
Hello, proximity bias. You have it. I have it too. Why? Because this syndrome comes from times when people lived in tribal structures. Being with others guaranteed survival. Staying alone basically meant death. Based on this, we tend to give preferential treatment and more trust to the people we can see and who are around us. That’s the culprit of managers claiming they need to see workers in their cubicles. It’s also the source of numerous virtual meetings that… could have been an email. We generally need to “see” others to feed some of our own biases. Of course, we’re social creatures and we need other people. But this has nothing to do with compulsive attendance monitoring or tracking mouse movements…
Dress codes as a symbol of professionalism
In the 19th century, the idea of a dress code became more structured as societal standards and expectations concerning appearance and clothing grew clearer. The expansion of industrialization and urbanization fostered a burgeoning middle class and heightened emphasis on social standing and manners, consequently resulting in the establishment of stricter dress codes. Well, I agree that we need common sense. It’s usually better to be overdressed than underdressed. But let me ask you this: Does wearing sneakers, jeans, and a t-shirt make you less professional? Do you need heels and a tie to be more reliable? No, you don’t. There’s also no scientific data on how a strict dress code makes you a better cubicle worker…
Surrounding workplace bias
There are numerous opinions, points of view, and statements concerning different ways of working. “The office is better” or “remote work is better” discussions are on the upswing. Hybrid work, which is supposed to be the golden win-win solution, is often called “the worst of both worlds”. It also looks like the 4-day working week is going to be the new normal in some companies. So who is right? Is there even a company that can be considered a blueprint for the best approach? Is office attendance essential to building company culture? Does location independence guarantee a diverse workforce?
Honestly, I “love” such questions because they’re all wrong as a principle. We can’t keep blindly following every single piece of information that is put in front of us. There is no right or wrong in this case. We can’t possibly put all the people and all the different business contexts in one bucket to create a one-size-fits-all approach. No. The core is flexibility, understanding people, and having the right processes in place. If we miss all of these, we can’t possibly build a scalable approach towards any new ways of working that we’d like to implement.
My advice: evaluate and question the status quo. As people, we’re supposed to be the beneficiaries of all ongoing changes. There will be different stakeholders and perceptions, but that’s all part of change. The ongoing workplace evolution doesn’t come unexpectedly. It’s been on the horizon for a while, but it’s now when we need to make conscious decisions that will shape the future of work.