I remember work-life balance to be the thing that everyone desired when searching for a job. The idea of having a nice balance of work and play had tremendous appeal, and many who were in high-stress (with high pay) environments switched over to less taxing work environments and were happy to take a pay-cut just for this. The reasonings for these can vary, but the one that was common was the need to take breaks and have some sort of chance to still dabble in their hobbies and to spend time with their family.
The last two years saw businesses taking a different spin. The pandemic shifted almost every industry online and the new fad was Work-From-Home (WFH). Of course, many struggled with the transition and wanted to return to the office at the onset. They cited that the home environment was perhaps not the most conducive zone to be doing work in. but as time passed, people became more creative and competent in handling the multitude of distractions that came their way. Now as the Covid-19 pandemic started to become under control, and WFH is slowly getting phased out, not everyone is pleased. The WFH model seemed to be the most sustainable and desirable for everyone. But why?
I looked at various management business models that compared to the WFH and tried to figure out the underlying reason for this. It couldn’t simply just be because of the long commute times (although that played a part) to work. It took me a while, but the answer was actually staring at me all these while. One of the core tenets of a good career is the need for autonomy, which essentially just means the need to do things on their own terms. Nobody likes being forced to do anything, and always having control in your actions and to decide your own outcomes seems to be the greatest motivating factor in anything you undertake. The WFH model lets you do exactly that. You decide when you go for lunch and to take random sporadic breaks in-between without feeling worried about whether your boss is monitoring you. You can better execute your tasks in an optimal environment that you decided to be in (by decluttering your house, maybe) as well as having greater control in your timetables than in the office. Granted you still shuttle from various online meetings from time to time, but apart from that, you are in greater control. The need for control is a fundamental asset in productivity and has allowed for companies to still maintain or increase their productivity despite being in an uncertain terrain.
One of the forefathers of the WFH model explored the ability of control as well. Named the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), this business model allowed for employees to do things at their own pace. The idea is simple - No results, no job. Employees under this scheme were found to have greater productivity and were even more motivated to do their jobs. People leaving the company were also found to have plummeted by 90% compared to the statistics acquired before the ROWE was implemented. The ROWE is a strong competitor to any other operational models but it is lacking. The early adopters and advocates of the ROWE scheme have done away with the model, and instead moved its leadership style to systems such as coaching and delegation, which brings me on to my next point.
For such models (ROWE and WFH alike) to succeed and be sustainable in the long-term, employees must know WHAT their role in the company is. Not giving them a guideline of sorts such as the sort of goals they have to achieve that can range from anything like sales quota or a number of completed proposals. Employers can be the ones to decide on these. Not having an end-goal or a framework to follow would just lead themselves to being like headless chickens roaming about arbitrarily. That is counter-productive to any company. The ROWE and WFH model in silo is strong and a good method in the short-term, but without the right direction and leadership, it will never be sustainable. Companies have to take this in mind and make serious changes to their work arrangements to further their interest. Whatever they do, they have to involve the fundamental trait of control.
The future is clear. Once unconventional models like the WFH and ROWE scheme are becoming more well-received and mainstream. Companies and Employers who are able to maximise and effectively implement these will be ahead of the competition for sure. It is high time people start figuring out how to do it.