Over the last few years, big companies such as Google and Virgin have gone out of their way to provide ‘fun’ working environments for their staff: astroturf on the floor, meetings held on picnic benches and an ice-cream van that gets cycled around the office once a day. Smaller businesses are also embracing progressive working practices to improve employees’ work/life balance: this office in Amsterdam, for instance, disappears into the ceiling every night at 6pm so workers can’t stay late.
As I said last week, I am now thinking about the factors that would make my working life pleasant – the kinds of things without which I won’t sign my life away for another 10 years, basically. It’s tempting to put a daily ice-cream van on the list, or a trapeze in the office – but these could hardly be claimed to make up the base of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, quite apart from the moral qualms I would have about working for companies such as Google.
So, for what it’s worth, here is my wish list for a job:
- A base assumption that employees are responsible adults who won’t abuse the system at every turning and who are basically capable of organising their own time.
- At least some degree of autonomy – having a manager breathe down your neck doesn’t improve one’s self-esteem or creativity.
- A team or organisation that is dynamic enough to make stuff happen quickly if necessary. Procedures and protocols are fine, as long as there is flexibility to change them without the need for 12 meetings and a lot of sighing and tutting.
- Creativity. This can take many forms: ideally, I would like to be the output of the organisation I work for to be creative in one way or another, as well as for the organisation to encourage creativity and creative thinking in its employees.
- Hierarchy exists everywhere, and I think organisations with a ‘flat’ management structure are a bit of a fallacy: but people at any level of an organisation should be approachable and open to discussion, debate and suggestions from anyone else in the organisation. Senior people should also sit next to other employees, have lunch with them and make tea sometimes.
- Going back to the first point: it’s nice to be able to wear whatever you want to work. People should generally be trusted to know that ‘casual dress’ excludes stained jogging bottoms or a red PVC dress with thigh boots. But being forced to wear uncomfortable grey clothing (particularly for men) is just miserable in so many ways.
- As referenced in my last post, cycling to work is pretty neat. I’d love to work somewhere close enough to be able to cycle to work every day. And somewhere with good cycle storage.
- Variation: whether it’s variation in the work itself, or the working environment. Some travel would be nice, although not to Preston as I have been to that place more times than any human should (sorry).
- Similar to point 5, office politics exist everywhere and it’s naive to think that any organisation can be free from politics completely. But let’s say that an organisation where politics and arse-covering weren’t a daily concern would be nice.
- I like working with people who are at least a little bit strange – the kinds of people who can appreciate things such as this (which was the cause of much hilarity in our office last week), as well as being able to discuss things like feminism, films and most importantly food.
- I would like my actual work to be at least vaguely intellectually stimulating, and requiring at least some level of (creative) thought. After leaving school I had a data entry job for a few months; it was soul-destroyingly boring.
- Although I have had a small taster of the freelance lifestyle over the past few months, I’m not sure if I’d be able to hack it as a freelancer. It’s a pretty tough proposition, and I like to have at least some certainty over where my next month’s rent is going to come from.
- Money has never been my first consideration when it comes to work – but earning enough money for it not to be a constant source of stress/worry would be nice.
- I have definitely enjoyed working in small organisations over the past few months. Perhaps small organisations are more likely to provide the items listed above.
I’m sure the above list is not exhaustive – but writing down at least some of the things I would look for in a job has been really useful, on the eve of having to hit the job market properly. I’m trying not to be too daunted, and to see it as something positive and exciting. What are the kinds of things you look for in a job? And does your current job provide at least most of the things on your wish list?