For many of us, the majority of our waking time is spent at work. But in today’s world where technology is driving growth and change at such rapid speeds, this doesn't necessarily mean you need to be at a desk in an office. In fact, I would argue that the traditional office no longer works for the companies that are being built today, with agile teams, portfolio workers and an emphasis on creativity.
I used to work in a traditional 9-5 corporate job where I spent many hours each day stuck behind a desk. Since becoming an entrepreneur, I’ve chosen not to maintain that work environment.
I now work from home and maintain flexible hours. This is simply because I have recognised that this is how I work best. If you want to be an effective leader, you first need to learn how to lead yourself, which includes optimising your environment in order to optimise your performance.
I don't think it’s natural for a human being to be sedentary all day long. Energy levels also fluctuate throughout the day so it's important to have a stimulating environment to help you be creative.
I recognised that I was more productive in a quiet environment as opposed to a noisy open plan office. I also noticed that my energy levels peaked first thing in the morning and that is when I do my most important work.
My old ninety minute commute into the City meant I was spending my most productive time crammed on the tube - no wonder I often arrived at the office in a stressed-out state.
As a leader, I now recognise how important it is that my work environment supports my business goals. That also means understanding what my team needs from their workspace to be happy and productive.
In my experience, staff are now looking for more than just a paycheck. They want to be able to work from home, have more experiences and have the freedom to choose what they work on. This is increasingly true of the millennial generation, which is now the largest group in the workplace, so if companies want to thrive in today's world, they need to understand what staff want and be prepared to offer that.
Of course, in-person interactions will always be required and I maintain these for team meetings or when we launch new products or celebrate our successes. It’s a good way for everyone to get together and catch up, which is important for properly functioning teams. It’s also important that the ground rules for remote working are clearly defined and understood. But we’ll only get the right balance if we embrace the technology that allows us to work more flexibly, have video calls and do work over the phone.
Above all, in corporate and start-up life, I have learnt that if you treat your staff like the adults they are, you need to trust that they will get on with the job even if they aren't sitting at a desk right in front of you. That’s a lot easier when you also trust yourself to work out of the office, and doing so on a regular basis sends an empowering signal to your team that it’s okay for them too. If they feel ownership of their tasks and their time – like you do – everyone will ultimately benefit.
Sukhi Jutla is co-founder of MarketOrders, an online B2B platform for the jewelry industry and a Management Today Women 35 under 35 alumna.
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