When every start-up out there seems to be investing in foosball tables and flexible working policies, is there anything to be said for businesses who stick to traditional working models? In today’s “the customer is always right” world, what can be gained from working a 9-5 and prohibiting working from home or during weekends?
Businesses, especially SMEs, have started to veer towards greater flexibility when it comes to working patterns, and have started to employ creative employee benefits. As well as improving staff morale, flexible working can also benefit the 24 hour customer who likes to be able to purchase or interact at whenever is convenient for them.
Big businesses can afford to bend over backwards to accommodate new purchasing patterns, but smaller businesses with fewer staff can struggle to do so. Some businesses are pushing back against the tide by maintaining that more traditional ways of working are best. And if they deliver the best results for their business, then why not?
Although this means the office might not have a sleeping pod, karaoke machine, or fruit machine in the breakout area, their working relationships might be stronger. Some businesses feel that sticking to traditional working patterns work best for them.
Fiona Minett is the company director of Peachy PR, and she feels that traditional working still has its place, even when the whole world seems to have decamped to coffee shops with laptops to work remotely. She runs a boutique PR agency with a small team who are in the office Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm. She says, “A lot of people outside of retail, for example, expect to be working these hours. To keep everyone on the same page and working efficiently I find it works best to be in the office at the same time. I understand the need to embrace more flexible working practices, but it is frustrating to me to see candidates come for interview only prepared to work four days out of five in the office.
"We can't brainstorm, meet, work as a team or be creative in the way our clients deserve us to be if we can't be working together physically as a group. Of course we take various meetings out of the office which is necessary in our field, but we are able to do this in the knowledge that we stick to the traditional parameters the other 70 to 80 per cent of the time."
Marie-Rachel Jacob is an assistant professor at EMYLON business school. She specialises in human resource and change management, and notes that changes in working environment can be a cultural thing. In the UK, employees are more content working in open plan environments, while in France, people prefer individual offices. "Google style offices may be better to control employees - they can collect data on their behaviours and compute them into analytics, e.g. what employees eat at the company restaurants. Google wants to make sure that each employee is satisfied and will want to keep on working for Google."
She predicts that although "Google style" working environments (those with foosball tables, work restaurants, and opportunities to play at work) may be beneficial to those working in the creative industries, for more traditional businesses, they may have the opposite effect.
Peachy PR isn’t the only small business convinced that traditional ways of working remain the core of a successful company. Alex Grace is the marketing director of Leeds-based clothing company Banana Moon, and he believes that team working is pivotal to the success of a company, and long established working conditions are vital.
Grace says, "Our working hours have always been 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday as it’s crucial to us that our employees know exactly what to expect when they come to work. Having regular and reliable working hours allows our staff to easily plan their everyday lives, which is something they respect and seem to really appreciate.
"There’s also a certain pleasure and sense of tradition in leaving work on a Friday afternoon ready for the weekend and returning on Monday re-charged and ready to start a new week."
So even if playing at work looks like more fun than working, think about whether your business needs to keep employees entertained during core-business hours. It might not be as much as you think.