Let me explain. Workplace flexibility should be more than just a cool employee benefit that looks good on paper but is never taken advantage of.
At Bynder, we strongly believe that a diverse mix of working environments actually makes you more effective at your job. Unfortunately, employees don’t always feel they have the real freedom or support to work remotely—and it’s not their fault. It’s a management issue that needs more attention.
Managing input is much easier than managing output. There’s always an urge to show others you’re putting in the hours or that you’re the first person to arrive or the last to leave. I actually think a workplace that rewards a poor work-life balance, where everyone is afraid to go home until the boss leaves, fuels a toxic work culture.
Working remotely is a great exercise for management. The employee/manager relationship requires mutual trust in order to function. Having an entire team work remotely puts that trust to the test. As managers, we need to trust our team members to take the days off that they need, and we must also trust that everyone who works at Bynder wants to do a great job each and every day, regardless of where they are working. We shouldn't have to police that.
Here in the Netherlands, we like to joke that we only get a very limited amount of sunny summer days. Yesterday was definitely one of those beautiful sunny days. I was chatting with one of our employees—let’s call her Amanda—about what we did with our respective weekends, and how nice it was to actually get some sun. She then happened to mention that she wished she could work remotely today, to spend some more time in the sun, but didn’t quite feel at liberty to do so because she felt management would frown on it.
I could see the perceived barrier there for Amanda. Bynder is a fast moving company where work is often demanding. Everyone feels the pressure of deadlines and targets, and for Amanda and many others, there’s simply never a good time to just not be in the office.
My own work patterns are, in one word, sporadic. Once I get to the office, the day flies by me. I answer maybe 10 emails only to get 20 back. It’s only when I’m on a plane that I can finally get my head down and begin my slow approach towards inbox zero.
In fact, I often find that I get more work done outside of the office—and I’m not alone! For many of us, being able to hide away for hours on end is the only way to get through a long to-do list. So, for us, working remotely can be a productivity godsend. It gets you away from interruptions, meetings, conference calls, and other workplace distractions, allowing you to instead focus on getting things done.
For the record, I’m not saying that I find in-person meetings, brainstorms, and team building activities unnecessary. They’re essential to building a solid team of employees and preserving a strong company culture. They just don’t always move us toward specific day-in, day-out business goals the way we think they do.
Our decision to have a week where everyone in the company is encouraged to work remotely is about more than just making sure our employees get some sun. The point we’re attempting to prove is that working “remotely” shouldn’t be a buzzword; it should be a feature of day-to-day work life.
Nor should workplace flexibility be a promise we make during the recruitment process without ever intending to live up to that promise. There are some real benefits in stepping outside of the office and having the flexibility to work remotely at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home, without the pressure of being tethered to your workspace.
I understand Amanda’s concerns. As long as she doesn’t have both the freedom and encouragement from management to work remotely, neither our flexible working hours, nor our unlimited vacation policy will be anything more than a hypocritical PR stunt.
But I want to tell Amanda—and others—that you can and should work remotely. Take advantage of flexible hours. Work the way you want to work. Let’s all come together and encourage one another to break down the old-school perception that input has to be monitored each and every minute of the day. After all, Amanda is in Sales, and as CEO, I can firmly say that no one cares if you work from the beach if you hit your number :)
Here’s a small confession: I actually love being in the office. I get all the distraction, meetings and interruptions I need to NOT get anything done but not feel bad about it. It’s my second home and I enjoy being around my colleagues, the laughter, the buzz and the excitement. For those of you who, like me, will miss the office: don’t worry, we’ll let you back in after remote week.
Just a few guidelines to keep in mind while you work from the beach, the airplane or a hammock in your backyard:
I hope you get a ton of work done out there, and finally get the opportunity to even out those tan lines while you're at it.
Okay, I'm off to the beach.