What Workplace Trends Are You Thankful For?

With Thanksgiving just past, we’ve had time to think about what we’re grateful for, so I thought it was time to consider what you’re most happy about in your organization, and what needed changes are on your holiday wish list.

To get us started, here is a blog post by Alison Green, which I found on the US News & World Report Website. Green notes such blessings as the growing ability to telecommute, the increasing acceptance of flex time, the growing number of employers offering paid sick time, a shrinking gender pay gap, and more options for non-traditional career paths.

In my office, a window is a point of great happiness. Not to sound pathetic, but I’m in the best cubicle I’ve ever been in—a palace of a cubicle—much larger than all the surrounding cubicles and with my very own window. Do you think employers with small budgets have an opportunity to send messages (both positive and negative) to an employee based on the workstation they give that employee, even when it’s just a cubicle? I’ve been told I’m a prized employee, so maybe this corner cubicle (a low-rent counterpart of the coveted corner office) is a sign of how valued I am.

Once, at a past company, I witnessed a co-worker sent a disheartening message by a workstation reassignment. We were moving to a new floor in the building, and this former co-worker, who had been in a spacious office on the old floor, was moved into a compact cubicle on the new floor. A year later, or less, she was terminated.

In addition to my luxurious cubicle with a view, I’m also grateful for a casual corporate culture. In the media, we’re generally not paid well, but what we lack for in pay we make up in the ability to wear blue jeans to the office every day—or pink hair and neon tights. I regularly wear bohemian attire to the office, and I have a serious colleague who wore pink hair for a couple of months without raising an eyebrow. This is no small thing. I remember on a hot summer day meeting a friend who worked for a global financial institution. I was in something like a sundress with sandals, and she was in a blouse and pants with closed-toe shoes. I was surprised and asked her about the closed-toe shoes with stockings. She said she wasn’t allowed to wear open-toe shoes to the office. Imagine that! I was appalled—even if she did earn twice as much as me. The satisfaction of expressing yourself through your attire (being yourself) and being comfortable can’t be underestimated.

This next thing I’m grateful for is going to sound facetious, but it’s not—it’s very genuine. I’m extremely thankful that my boss, who has a wealth of terrible ideas, also has a terrible memory. About once every two months he comes up with an awful idea, and like a small child, all you have to do is nod your head and play along, and sometimes by the next day, he’s forgotten all about it. A disorganized, forgetful boss can be the greatest thing for a self-starter employee with her own ideas and ways of approaching work. It really lets you take the lead, and not only allows you, but requires you, to run with your own plans. Otherwise, nothing will get done.

Here’s a lesson to pass along to employees in development classes on becoming the self-starter the company says it wants all its employees to be: First, try to communicate effectively with your boss in person and via e-mail (so there’s a record that you tried), and then take the initiative and get it done on your own. It’s better to have a finished product that the boss then can ask you to improve upon or alter than an unmet deadline or incomplete project. It’s important to instill a corporate culture that places bosses as guides, but not as ultimate gurus. That way, when the boss is incapacitated, backed up with other duties, or just plain incompetent, the company knows the work still will get done.

The last thing I’m truly thankful for is the ability to walk to and from work, and to take a bonus walk at lunch. With sedentary office jobs the norm for most people at corporations, having an office in a safe neighborhood in an urban area with plenty of surrounding sidewalks is a huge plus, as is a company set inside a nice (not necessarily enormous) corporate park. When choosing a place to base your office, cost is a prime concern, but at the same time, the company should think about the benefits of certain locations versus others on employee health and state of mind—and the type of employees your location will attract. For instance, my office building (at least for now) is based in an artsy area of downtown New York City. It’s very expensive real estate, but the people who work in this building, and for my company, are probably much more innovative and fresh-thinking than employees based in other areas of the city, or out in the suburbs. Your location sometimes dictates the kind of employees who are willing and able to work for your company.

After thinking about all the things I’m grateful for, it’s apparent that the non-monetary perks actually count for something. The next time you can’t offer a department of hard-working employees a raise or other material luxuries, consider a more appealing corner of the office for them, a relaxed dress code, or a schedule flexible enough to allow them to stretch their open-toed shoes with an hour’s walk at lunch.

What are you thankful for about at your office? What do you think your employees are most thankful for? Would it be worth doing a quick e-mail survey to see what your employees are most grateful for? It might tell you something about your company’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

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