Notes from America: The Slack Manifesto
I love the Slack Workplace Manifesto, and I have to admire that at least the company thinks about the habitat for its advocates. Few companies do, relying on facility plans that were formed most likely more than a 100 years ago. Time, space, and a seemingly unique office need to meander unbothered for long periods of time have caused me some pause on the Manifesto.
The first thing I thought about was that not just individuals but that groups have unique needs. They change with circumstances, but they probably follow a pattern. These group “personas” could be the legal team, the HR team, the development team, and the creative teams. I once visited a few agencies, and I was astonished at how different their office spaces were. I’m not sure those organizations are still in business, and I have no idea if they were more “creative” or not, but the people there were very proud of the facilities.
I’m pretty sure the Slack Manifesto includes the notion of personas in its ideals, which frankly go beyond just plain old facilities. I have to wonder though what will trigger the 18–24 month redesign? Personal preferences? Metrics? Funding? Expansion? Or maybe it’s a comprehensive analysis on satisfaction from recruiting candidates or productivity plus retention metrics.
I don’t run any facilities and really don’t care what the environment looks like as long as I can escape once in a while so that I can be productive. I’m also not distracted easily, but outside influences can alter the perceptions I’m trying to create. So here’s how I’d frame my own personal workplace manifesto:
- Make each “facility” several individual micro-facilities. Everyone’s different; everyone has ideas that are expressed in different ways; and there’s that ridiculous introvert-extrovert meme that spans time. It’s almost like people want to box themselves in with a label, e.g., “I’m an introvert … here’s how you’re supposed to deal with me…”
- Don’t limit the number of people in a facility. That seems arbitrary. Instead, mix up the people in the micro-facilities and encourage cross-team collaboration and engagement.
- Think of personal empowerment ahead of facilities whether it matters or not. Everyone wants to feel in control. Modern technology has taken much of that control away and replaced it with standardized choices, e.g., “I have an iPhone 6s and a stand-up desk. That’s what makes me unique.” Personal empowerment means different things to different people. How facilities facilitate that kind of engagement is the key.
- There is no workspace. Everywhere will be a workspace. I’m currently in Salina, KS using a hot spot with one bar of 4G, and I can work efficiently, even while on vacation. By the way, I still don’t see the point in trying to balance your work and life. Life involves work, and work is part of life. The balance is automatic depending on the personality of the person.
- Consider the time. Early morning people may want to hole up in an office and emerge mole-like a few hours later after everyone else settles in. People who work at night may need to play — I don’t know games, but Overwatch is one my son plays.
- Get rid of the public area ping-pong tables. They annoy the hell out of everyone else, which usually means only two people are enjoying them, and if they are good, at least one person will walk away frustrated. Put the ping-pong tables in their own facility, and then encourage competitions.
- Think of the future. As NLPs and voice-commands become pervasive, think about how the environment will be impacted when several people are yelling into their phones, while others are trying to write Medium posts. If not, consider acoustics — some rooms will have to be quiet and some will be effervescent.
- Expand the experience. People near transit hubs may have had wireless access from a bus or shuttle, a train, their Uber-pool, or their personal Hyper-loop pod. The experience emerging from one of those environments should be somehow tied into the facility.
- Stop facilities from dictating employees’ locations. Part of the creative process may be for employees in certain positions identifying with a group that may have some harmonies with what they do. I sat with compliance for a while; I identified with those compliance employees, mostly because we never talked.
- Don’t use the word “employee.” It reeks of hierarchy and someone of a lower status from the executives. Companies will eliminate creativity with slapping labels on individuals.
And then do what Joe Gentel of Slack says.
I’m merely an observer, and I am rarely influenced or motivated to write when others do a comprehensive take. But the workplace is something that has amazed me. I’ve worked in a small Department of Army office (great creativity). I worked in a large government agency (great creativity). I have worked in a warehouse (great creativity for myself, but not for everyone. I worked construction (not super creative), I’ve worked in the press (amazing creativity). And I work at Salesforce, where there could be thousands of people in an area, and there’s tremendous creativity, and engagement. (Note the usual clause — these views are mine and not Salesforce’s. I’ve just worked there a long time)
It tends to make me think that creativity and engagement have less to do with facilities than with culture.
I’m sure that like the medium is the message that facilities are the culture, but in both cases, the reverse is also true.