Freedom in the Workplace
I am a passionate defender of freedom, both in and out of the workplace. I am a big believer that hiring talented, trustworthy, high performance employees and treating them with respect is a recipe for a successful company. In an environment such as that, you invariably will have far greater overall productivity and mutual respect between employer and employee than you do in locked-down environments where employees are treated like prisoners.
I also do not believe in wielding information technology as a weapon- dictating which web sites employees may or may not visit, or who they may or may not email or call or message. If you hire intelligent employees, who respect the company that they work for- they will work just that much harder because they realize that their employer treats them like an adult. Those employees who abuse freedom should not be employees in the first place. In today’s world, there is no clear delineation between work and home. You work when you’re at home, and you work when you’re at work; and conversely you perform personal tasks when you’re at home, and when you’re at work. There is nothing wrong with that and employees should not be penalized for having a life, or- for that matter- being a 'workaholic.'
Intelligent productive employees are more than capable of delivering what is expected of them and more to their employer. Those employees, who are not performing however, should be disciplined and perhaps terminated. The key is to use job performance as the only metric. Everything else is, and should be, irrelevant. Who cares if an employee pays their bills online at work? Who cares that they take a personal call from their wife or husband? Who cares if they check sports scores online, or update their LinkedIn or Facebook? That should not matter as long as the employee is performing their job, and especially if they are excelling at their job. Likewise, keep in mind that that same employee is likely giving up his/her ‘personal time’ at home to perform job tasks- like answering emails, planning meetings, talking to clients, and more. There is no clear delineation today between work and home like there was in the early 20th Century.
Those employers with draconian policies will not attract and keep the kind of talent necessary to excel in today’s modern world. Companies need smart, innovative, dedicated employees to take them through the challenges of the 21st century. Employees are the heart and soul of a company, and companies that are stuck in 19th century authoritarian industrial mindsets will fail. Their policies and attitude will drive away the intelligent ‘out of the box thinkers’ and replace them with unhappy, unproductive drones who are not problem solvers or innovators.
So many companies today have a knee jerk reaction to create a company-wide policy for every contingency, for every disciplinary issue, for every bad employee. Instead, the right way to handle these situations is to address the bad behavior with those individual employees and correct it, or terminate the employee if necessary. Don’t create a policy which punishes and undermines the trust of your hard working and respectful employees because one, or a few, employees are not performing as they should be. Good management solves problems with individual personnel; they don’t create far-reaching policies which problem personnel will not follow anyway.
Another very important factor to consider is that in the 21st century, a physical presence means very little. Companies are found and vetted by their online reputation- by their web site, their Facebook presence and LinkedIn presence, and by comments and reviews from customers and employees. Both Facebook and LinkedIn are powerful sales and marketing tools to expand the market reach of a company, find potential clients, and reinforce and maintain relationships with existing clients. Blocking these critical business tools are equivalent to ignoring an entire (very powerful) advertising medium, and companies that do so experience far less business growth as a result. In fact, many experts estimate that social media is now the most effective means for B2B marketing.