I've worked in corporate America for many years...over 20 years, and during the time when my adult children were young, I worked on a contractual basis. This provided me with the flexibility I needed to balance work and family. Today, I still consult from time to time, in addition to running my two businesses, and I can see a significant shift happening in the workplace. I've worked from home for large corporations for over 10 years. In fact, when my 13-yr-old daughter was born I was one of the very first employees to work from home at Overlook Hospital, which is owned by Atlantic Health Systems. For years I've worked from home for companies like Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and Prudential. When I first began doing this, it seemed as if companies were starting to realize that telecommuting provided a certain level of ownership and accountability on the part of its employees. Working from home is a benefit that serves both the employees and the company. It is very useful for the company when there is inclement weather, as they benefit from having employees still produce results instead of calling out because their well-being is at stake if they commute to the office when the roads are not safe. It also allows employees with young children to still be able to crank out the work while being home with a sick child when necessary. These are just a few of the benefits that both employees and employers realize when companies are smart enough to allow their staff to work from home.
The trend that I've started to realize over the past 2 - 3 years is that the leadership of some companies have began to demonstrate very possessive and controlling behavior, and this most certainly impacts productivity and the level of partnership that employees experience. I've heard of cases where contractors are no longer allowed to work from home, laptops were forbidden to be removed from the office, and there are many other similar rules and policies that I've heard of over the last few years.
I recently joined a company on an interim project and found the experience to be like no other. I'm not able to cite the name of the company due to my responsibility to this company with regard to confidentiality, but this company is by far one of the most forward thinking organizations that I've ever worked for in all of my years of experience. They not only make a significant investment in their contractors, but they provide everyone on the team with laptops, they also allow telecommuting for everyone under certain circumstances, including the contractors. I've never worked for a company with such an upbeat environment...an environment where people do 10 minutes of yoga before starting their day...where the management team rolls up their sleeves and they get to work like everyone else when necessary...where the perks are by far the best I've ever seen. It has been an extraordinary experience, one where I've been excited to wake up in the morning and head out the door. As much as I love consulting, often times when I am on a project, the corporate politics and nonsense leave such a bad taste in my mouth, and I'm far less than inspired to hit the road in the morning knowing what the environment is like when I arrive to work. This is in spite of my love for the actual work that I do.
The thought behind this article is that many of the large corporations need a wake up call, to let them know that they are moving backwards, and that the controlling, possessive approach will drive their best people in the other direction. The average person is beginning to realize that an entrepreneurial spirit is no longer a "nice to have," instead it has become imperative that people think in this way. With all of the downsizings, mergers, acquisitions, etc. many are no longer waiting for that pink slip or losing sleep at night because of the uncertainty. The number of employees with additional streams of income and businesses on the side is rapidly growing, as people become less and less dependent on "big corporate" to get their bills paid.
What's your environment like at work? Do you feel like you're in a prison? Or does your company make waking up in the morning an exciting adventure that has you leaping out the door and arriving at work 1/2 hour early every day? When it's all said and done, the companies that allow their employees the freedom and flexibility to balance their work and family lives will be the ones who are able to retain their top talent and strongest performers. Where does your company stand? Are they one of the companies that will be left behind? Or are they on the cutting edge when it comes to how they treat their employees and contractors?