Nap rooms and 5 other workplace trends that aren’t built to last
Workplace trends: the good, the bad and the silly
Like any other trends, workplace trends come and go. Some make a lasting impact, others produce “What were we thinking?” shrieks years later. When it comes to modernizing the workplace, a certain one-upsmanship comes into play as companies jockey to be the most flexible and most forward-thinking. This leads to a few things that either aren’t very sustainable or weren’t very good ideas in the first place.
Of course, if you’re the beneficiary of one of these workplace trends and you think it’s amazing, I’m open to changing my mind.
1. Nap rooms
This is not a knock on naps. I like naps. I believe in naps. Serious studies show that well-timed naps can be major productivity boosts for some people. But when advocates of company nap rooms start talking about “nap pods” that cost around $10-12K apiece… well, c’mon, is it any wonder that the companies at the forefront of this “emerging trend” are companies like Google? When’s the last time your company bought a $12,000 chair? Or even a $12,000 pod? So while nap advocates envision futuristic nap rooms that look like a cross between international business class and the spaceship room where Cylons regenerate in Battlestar Galactica, I’ve seen the reality at a previous job – and the reality looks like a dark break room with a few beat-up recliners bravely enduring a medley of sweaty bodies and greasy heads. Or maybe the beat-up recliners didn’t have to endure anything – because I literally never knew anyone who took a nap there. It’s a nice idea, but a lot harder to pull off in practice. Also: some of the non-nappers will totally judge the nappers, even if the nappers work longer hours.
2. Super-open floor plans
It’s important (if not imperative) to think about collaboration when you’re thinking about your office design. We’ve previously offered some easy and cheap ways to boost collaboration with a redesign. Some well-meaning companies have taken this rush toward collaborative spaces a little too far; “Death to the office! Death to all private spaces!” We make a mistake when we assume that all people thrive under the same conditions; that’s partially what led to the ineffectiveness of the old-fashioned, cube-dominated offices in the first place. Physically take down the walls between departments and magic may transpire. But force people together without giving them an escape – a place to focus on an intensive project or hold a private call – and you’re just fixing an old problem by creating a new problem.
3. Parental involvement
The first time I heard about “helicopter parents,” I thought The Onion was finding a new way to insult 20-somethings. Instead, it was NPR reporting on how companies treated parents of their employees and prospective employees as “key influencers” and even occasionally invited them into job interviews. Even in 2013, I still see the occasional thought piece in my LinkedIn feed. Fortunately, all parties involved seem to be realizing that “our workplace is one big family” doesn’t need to be taken literally. When I saw an article recently on high-tech gadgets for helicopter parents, I was relieved to find the focus back where it belongs: on babies, not college grads.
4. Fun perks mistaken for “company culture”
Company culture should reflect your business values. Company culture should inform the way you’re working together when it’s 10:20 a.m. on a Tuesday and you’re in a conference room, not just when you’re knocking back after-hours IPAs. As we wrote previously: “In the Web 2.0 world and the era of startups outdoing each other with offices that seem designed by 12-year-olds, ‘company culture’ is too often reduced to: everyone wears flip-flops, we have a talking life-size robot in the lobby, we took a staff outing to a Swedish House Mafia show.”
5. The marginalized specialist
As economic woes mounted, the business world started peddling the idea that “the specialist is dead” and that future employees would be jacks-and-jills-of-all-trades. Job descriptions became increasingly implausible. If you’re talking about the executive level, then, yes, you want a leader who can effortlessly move between engineering, finance and marketing teams. As collaborative companies knock down silos, it’s important that employees don’t have tunnel vision and are able to work toward shared goals with other departments, but you don’t need your virtuoso programmer to also write the occasional press release. T-shaped skill sets will continue to offer a lot of value, but specialists will continue to thrive.
6. Collaborative buzzwords
“The least collaborative people have an uncanny ability to liberally sprinkle collaborative-sounding buzzwords in interviews and resumes,” author and collaboration expert Evan Rosen told us recently. As businesses continue to move beyond lip service and truly embrace collaboration in structure and practice, these buzzwords will increasingly prove ineffective – and no more compelling or noteworthy than a person or business saying it embraces profits or hard work.