I got a laugh yesterday when visiting the Southwest Airlines website. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, they revamped it with a green color scheme and leprechaun-friendly prose. They’re one of my favorite airlines, not only because they are consistently on time and predictable, but also because of their corporate culture.
Culture has been in the news recently with Yahoo’s recent change in its work-from-home policy and the resulting backlash. In many ways I agree with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer that having employees in the office is important. As someone who has worked both in a cube farm and remotely, there are challenges to not being in physical proximity to co-workers. There is a loss of ability to read non-verbal communications and it’s hard to build workplace trust with co-workers you’ve never seen or met. My biggest issue with many people working from home is the risk of multitasking – it’s all too tempting to multitask in ways that you would never do in the office proper. I did really enjoy working remotely, however, and was a lot more productive than I was in the office because I could focus and work on complex problems without interruption. I can see both sides of the argument.
A recent piece on the corporate culture at Google illustrated their efforts to keep employees happy when coming to the office. Themed conference rooms, “design your own desk” offices, and free meals join subsidized massage therapy at the office as perks. (I’m not too sure about the claim of free weekly eyebrow shaping, but to each his or her own.) The idea at Google is to make it a place that people want to come to rather than forcing workers to the office each day. The comments on the Google piece were pretty fun to read as well and several gave me a pretty good chuckle.
Comparing a place like Google to the average healthcare IT workplace is like comparing apples to oranges. Unless you’re at a progressive vendor with a lot of money and a culture of innovation, you’re probably making do with what you have and with few perks. Being in the non-profit hospital space, I can definitely attest to making do with very little. My current office is an abandoned conference room, which was taken out of service because the conference table didn’t really fit and also because the ventilation is sketchy at best. Being in a cube at the time, I snapped it up simply to have a door and a place where I could go to have private conversations about disciplining physicians or to just sit in silence for five minutes to get my head together before a day full of meetings. I had to go to the hospital’s “dead furniture room” to pick out a desk that is decidedly from the Reagan administration.
Our ambulatory division is housed in the former billing office and has very few conference rooms, which makes it difficult to have meetings. Even though we’re sometimes crammed in and bumping elbows, we have a rule that if you’re in the building, you’re expected to attend in person. We have a group of extremely cohesive managers and I can’t help but think that our meeting culture helps keep that team strong.
In contrast, our inpatient division is housed in a brand new building that was designed with functional layout in mind. Although the cubes are short and the floor plan is open, there are scores of meeting rooms (from small two- or three-person huddle spaces to massive training suites) which allow for both privacy and collaboration. Despite this, the office culture still doesn’t encourage workers who are physically in the building to attend meetings in person. Sometimes no rooms are booked for meetings, which leads to annoying conference call behaviors and rampant multitasking, not to mention entirely too many “can you repeat that” type statements. There’s also nothing worse than being on a call with the person in the cube next to you when you hear their voice through the air and then hear it on the phone seconds later due to the conference line delay. People are so busy on instant messenger and doing multiple projects that they can’t focus.
Having worked in a variety of environments, I know that getting people in a room together would be beneficial. Alas, it’s not my division, however, so all I can offer is my suggestions and my support to the leadership should they decide to make people start showing up. If they’re not going to make them come to meetings, they might as well let them work remotely and cut the office overhead.
Regardless of division, our employer no longer provides coffee or any other amenities in the office. We’ve turned into people who hoard spare forks and ketchup packets just in case we forget to bring them from home. There aren’t even cups to offer water to visitors, and don’t get me started on the “Coffee Club” vs. “Keurig On Desk” cliques. We’re not on the hospital campus, so there’s no cafeteria and we’re at least 15 minutes from the nearest restaurant, so brown-bagging is a must. I sent the Google article to a couple of colleagues and the responses were generally of the head-shaking variety.
Whether you’re a vendor or an end-user, how’s your workplace culture? Leave a comment and let us know.