Mention “informal workplace” and the first company that might pop up in your mind is Google. This supergiant search engine organisation is famously known for its lavish and flexible working structure. With employees decked in casual wear while in office, flexible working hours and self-customisable work desk, Google has definitely sparked a wave of controversy over such a working environment. While most companies still have a formal structure for corporate governance within the organistion, it is not surprising to know that many other companies are looking to jump on this bandwagon as well. So what are some of the benefits that come with implementing an informal working environment?
Happier Employees = Increased Productivity
The workplace environment plays an instrumental role in defining an employee’s mood and attitude. While employees do gain some advantages from an established working structure, an informal working environment allows employees to engage in less formal and restricted conversations. Furthermore, it provides employees an avenue to express themselves without feeling as if they have overstepped a mark. Based on a survey conducted by JP Morgan Chase, a leading American banking institution, it found that “95% of employees working in an environment where the manager is sensitive to work and personal life — including informal flexibility — feel motivated to exceed expectations, compared to 80% of employees in environments where the manager is not sensitive to needs for informal flexibility”.
By getting to know the interest and personalities of their supervisors and co-workers, it adds a more personal connection to the business and the people. These close and personal working relationships can have a positive impact, making employees feel more at comfortable and at home. This translates to a happier and positive mindset which equates to better and increased productivity within the organisation.
In contrast to a formal reporting relationship, manager and subordinate, an informal workplace grants employees the potential to add to their roles and to flex it to the needs of other employees. As employees increasingly have to cross traditional professional boundaries and organisations have to mobilise resources rapidly to function efficiently, an informal working environment allows employees to go beyond their fixed job description and lend their expertise to other teams or departments, despite not technically within that department. This encourages flexible workplace learning, providing employees more career paths for career growth. At the same time, it allows employees to build up their network contacts.
Better Communication Structure
Feedback and communication is essential in every company as it facilities improvement of business processes in the organisation. Typically, gathering of feedback is done in a vertical structure, whereby the superior will tell his subordinates areas for improvement and what needs to be done. Given the formality of such a corporate structure, feedback rarely works in the opposite direction and this can prove to be extremely inefficient.
In a less formal working environment, it breaks communication barriers between managers and their employees. While some managers may fear that the informal workplace reduces the control that they have over their employees, the effect is otherwise. Managers who value informality might actually gain more influence in this aspect. An engaged manager who is willing to listen to his subordinates’ feedbacks can establish strong trust and rapport with his workers and is more likely to be welcomed into break-room gatherings or photocopier gossip talks. Under these situations, a manager is able to address fictitious rumous and gossip and strengthen the bond within his team.
There are numerous benefits for organisations to begin adopting an informal work policy. There is no need for the antiquated corporate governance structure. Companies today should be flexible and adapt to the rapidly changing business environment. With a healthier business environment, companies are able to harness the full potential of each employee to successfully grow their business.