Burn your office down. Today!

Wait… Don’t set it on fire, but maybe turn it into a shelter, a school, or a parking lot. Turn it into anything that would bring more positive value to society than an office, that space where you expect to see your ‘employees’ to be physically present 8 hours a day.

Let me tell you something I’m sure you know already, and you have been ignoring for a while now because that’s the way it has always been and why change it now, right? I get it. But let me give a peak of the truth.

Your employees hate coming to the office every morning. They hate it. It slowly kills their potential and creativity, and they feel it. The freest spirits have been feeling stuck for quite a while now. Eventually, they will end up hating their job and leaving for another one. You think I’m exaggerating? I’m really not.

I don’t blame you, you paid the rent of this beautiful space, bought really cool office supplies and designed the place so beautifully. I blame the office, I blame the idea of the modern office that has been inhibiting the productivity and creativity of people instead of unleashing it. (I secretly blame you too for embracing that idea)

This idea is telling you that your ‘employees’ have to be sitting at a desk for eight hours a day to be producing the work and meeting the expectations. It’s wrong. It’s wrong and painful. People don’t need an office to deliver results, they need a culture. They need a culture that puts them in the centre, a culture that celebrates trust, freedom and responsibility in the work environment.

Yes. Trust, freedom and responsibility.

Trust the people you work with. It won’t be easy at first. Start with the people who work with you directly. Trust that they have the ability to deliver without being physically present in the same space as you. Know them, know what they’re good at and don’t interfere. Just like Gandalf in the Lords of the Rings, disappear a few times and “trust [ ‘employees’] to take whole legs of the journey on their own,”

This requires you to let it go. I know how much you like the taste of control, but give building this culture a try. Give your ‘employees’ the freedom to control how to do their jobs. Let them design their own work experience, the unique experience that will allow them to feel their best, perform their best, and eventually achieve excellence. Some might indeed need an office (You win, keep the damn office!), but others might prefer to work from their favourite coffee shop or from their couch at 2am in the morning. Give them the freedom to do so.

Consider Rabobank Nederland for instance, the banking arm Rabobank Group in the Netherlands. After several years of development, the bank has rolled out Rabo Unplugged, an organisational and technical infrastructure that allows employees to connect to one another from practically anywhere in the world while still meeting the strict standards that banking systems require. With no fixed offices or rigid job descriptions, Rabobank’s employees are responsible for the results of their work while they are free to choose how, where, when, and with whom to carry it out.

Yes, that kind of freedom requires a great amount of trust in the people you work with. And yes, your organisation might sink into chaos. And this is where comes the role of responsibility. Freedom and responsibility are mutually dependent because freedom without responsibility will definitely lead into chaos, and responsibility without freedom is just stressful and very painful.

Put in place the context and the framework for the people who work with you to be the most responsible, to be self aware, self motivating and self disciplined, to clean up their own mess and to clean up other people’s messes, to question strategies and plans and not goodwill, effort or intent, to make mistakes, own them, fix them and share the learning. To care more.

Remember, responsible people only thrive in freedom and they are worthy of freedom. Trust them, and they will lead the organisation to success!

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