I started my career bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – committed to doing my best work – armed with my very precious degree – and now years later, I have been accused of starting a ‘namby pamby’ employment revolution… and I am impatient to influence the ‘happiness at work’ movement to a greater degree. As I reflect on my own quarter of a century (that is only 25 years) in the workforce, I see that already there is much to celebrate in ‘creating’ nurturing, productive and profitable work places.
I’ve never referred to the RedBalloon team as ‘staff’, in fact quite the contrary. I believe my role is to take roadblocks out of their way so they can produce their greatest work. My job is to lay the framework so they can be themselves and do their best every single day.
Much has disappeared from to workplace since I began my career in the 1980s:
- A tea lady – who would push the tea trolley from floor to floor of the building pouring each person a cup of tea and offering biscuit at 10.30 and at 3.00 every day –and if you were away from your desk she would leave it for you.
- Morning and afternoon tea breaks – we would then get up from our desks and chat with our colleagues for about 15 minutes as we sipped our tea (or instant coffee).
- We had a word processing department (that had graduated from a typing pool) and we could dictate over the internal phone system to a recording device. Our documents were delivered back either at 10.00am or 2.00pm for our review, corrections and maybe to distribute.
- There were corner offices with big ‘executive’ chairs and a leather desk – and we all aspired to have one of those… outside of the offices usually sat a secretary.
- The secretaries main task was to book appointments with fellow managers in desk diaries. They would have a daily meeting with their manager to ‘update’ his/her desk diary and she would take ‘shorthand’ at those meetings if there were other requests to be fulfilled on.
- We had mail ‘boys’ who only left the basement mailroom once a day – after they had sorted through the bags and bags of mail.
- There was a ‘knock off’ time – this is something that has disappeared with flexible work hours and smart phones… but once upon a time when I was a young graduate we would finish work at the dot of five… and never think about work until we clocked in again at 9.00 in the morning…
- Oh yes and there is another institution that has all but disappeared – it was called the Friday liquid lunch… but really not much should be said about these – as they were long before there was such a department as HR (or human capital) in those days it was payroll or at best personnel.
This was only a few decades ago – not the ancient history that was portayed in MadMen…
Are work places better now? I ask the question – does your work place create the space for celebration, connection and fun? Because whilst these eight work practices have disappeared, probably due to cost/profit pressures, I do wish to remind you of the saying ‘All work and no play – makes Jack a very dull boy’.
What work practices have you seen disappear during your career?