4 Traits of a Modern Workplace

modern workplace traits
It's not bean bag chairs and open offices that make a modern workplace. Instead, it's these 4 traits.

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There’s a concerted effort these days to ensure organizations are “modern workplaces.” But even if you’re employed at a software company that has venture capitalists funding everything, beer kegs, video games, and bean bag chairs, your workplace may not be truly modern. In fact, even if your workplace has the best and fastest technology, it may not be that modern.

Why a modern workplace?

From an organizational standpoint, happy employees are more productive. That productivity saves your business money and increases revenue. From the employee standpoint, they get to work for an organization they believe in, where they connect with others and fulfill their purpose.


What is a modern workplace?

Forbes lists these as the major factors of what a modern workplace needs. Bottom line, a truly modern workplace engages people, helps them be more productive (through tools, values, open communication and processes), connects them to each other and assists them in finding their sense of purpose.

One thing is clear, “the future of work” – isn’t approaching, it’s here. Other organizations, maybe your competitors, are already embracing these ideas and have seen positive results.

Has your organization? Here are a few traits to determine how your workplace stacks up.

1. People can work from anywhere, at any time

cascading communications by engaging managersAre your employees tethered to the office or can they travel around your office building, work from home and work at your local coffee shop? Do they have flex time options? Your workforce should be able to be mobile, accessing the intranet on their smartphone as well as their email at a minimum. Do they have flex time options?

Your workforce should be able to be mobile, accessing the intranet on their smartphone as well as their email at a minimum. Enabling people to come is, as they need should be part of your productivity plan.

Why? Sometimes work needs to get done offsite, whether employees need to run to a kids’ appointment or to their own (like their doctor).  Beyond just thinking about productivity, there’s innovation. Creativity sometimes is confined when at work. Sometimes leaving the office promotes new ideas and ways of doing things. And flexibility is what workers crave. In fact, according to Flex Jobs, employees will take a lower salary just to get more flexibility.

If your office isn’t flexible – why not? Typically, issues come down to:

  • Company culture, where you should be seen to be working
  • Policies haven’t been developed to promote it
  • Resources, such as a smartphone, aren’t available

Here are a few ways to combat those challenges:

  • For company culture, get executives and leaders involved. Work through those issues with these teams and come up with ways to alleviate concerns. For example, if the issue is that your Customer Service team needs access to equipment only available in the office, discuss ways of making it available at their homes or discuss rotating schedules to free up those resources so they spend a day responding to chat or emails.
  • If policies haven’t been developed, create them. Many of the concerns from company culture can be addressed in documentation as expectations for employees.
  • Resources are a harder issue to tackle and it may mean you enable employees to use at-home devices. Obviously, new challenges arise such as security issues. Help employees understand those issues as well as keeping their devices updated and secure. That could include not letting non-secure devices onto the networks.

2. People are trusted to make decisions

Does this seem familiar? Your organizational achievements are at a standstill because the head of the department needs to review information that he or she doesn’t have time to review.

If so, it’s time to ask: are the right people at your organization making decisions? You’ve hired people at your organization to do a job, but some organizations prevent their workforce from doing it by insisting complex decision-making models where the risk is low.

Adding more people to the decision-making process doesn’t always make it better. Even worse, it slows down the results, sometimes hurting the organization – from decision-making paralysis to delayed benefit.

Granted, not every employee should be making all decisions. Executives, leaders and managers should identify decisions they need to be involved in, and the employees should understand why. From there, their job is to coach employees where the employee decides. Managers and leaders who delegate the right tasks have more time to handle bigger ticket items, where their expertise is needed.

Employees who have access to the right information to make good decisions, and are given the authority to do so, are empowered and more engaged.

3. People can communicate easily, and enjoy it

leader using her phone to see an intranetEmployees have a laptop or desktop computer. They have their personal smartphone or one provided by the company, or they should. Communicating on-the-go is important, especially for workers who aren’t at their desks often, such as salespeople, mailroom and stockroom employees, construction workers and physicians.

But good communications doesn’t end with technology. Here are a few ways employees can communicate:

  • Meetings happen, and they’re productive – including all-employee meetings
  • Employees are able to join meetings wherever they are
  • Employees can share and collaborate, both in meetings and online
  • Managers and executives are evaluated on their ability to communicate to employees
  • Employees are reading and understanding organizational and industry news, even commenting on it

If your organization doesn’t do this, it’s time for Communications to revise their strategy, or create new tactics to help encourage communication and understand the barriers. Even if your organization is “anti-meetings,” there is a time and a place for face-to-face discussions, even if they’re mostly informal relationship building ones.

Some ideas on how to get your organization to communicate:

  • Make communicating a part of your company values
  • Highlight employees being effective communicators online
  • Train executives, managers and leaders in communicating, from crucial conversations to transparency
  • Train all employees in effective forms of communication, including which one to employ when (such as when not to use email)
  • Survey and talk with employees to understand why they aren’t engaging with your news, whether it’s because of time issues or lack of interest
    • If time is the issue, consider building time in for administrative tasks, including reading news
    • If it’s because of a lack of interest, make business acumen part of your values, review your writing and content (add content variety, including types), and encourage employees to submit articles to be in the spotlight

4. People bring their “whole selves to work” and feel appreciated for it

intranets and employee engagementAdvanced leaders recognize how to connect employee’s passions to their work. If your employee loves to write, but he’s in IT, figure out ways for him to get involved as a content author for your intranet or submit articles to Communications. If your employee has a passion for project management, ask them to manage a project for your department.

Here are some ideas about bringing employee passions out at work:

  • Know what your employees are passionate about
  • Let them talk about those passions in one-on-one meetings, team meetings, etc.
  • Find projects and coach employees to bring their passions to life at work
  • Help employees find groups or other employees to gather to talk about those passions; some organizations have affinity groups permitted during work hours on topics employees are passionate about
  • Acknowledge in person, online and every other way you can, when employees bring passion and purpose together

Why is bringing passion and purpose together critical? That intersection is where real empowerment, engagement and productivity meet. When employees bring their passions to work and use those skills, they’re more likely to achieve greater things.

The modern workplace isn’t just about technology, although that’s part of it. The modern workplace is more of an agreement between employee and employer to meet organizational goals. The modern workplace just does so better, because those organizations get more from employees — engagement and productivity — and those employees get more in return as well — a sense of purpose, belonging, satisfaction, and life fulfillment.Employees need more than just technology, they need a place to share, engage, and relate online. They need to be able to carry it around, while they’re on the move.

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