In a recent article at the Harvard Business Review, entitled “The Twelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work”, Tony Schwartz provides a list of characteristics of an effective workplace that makes the employees more “engaged”, and thus more productive. These are the attributes, in summary:
- Commit to paying every employee a living wage.
- Give all employees a stake in the company’s success.
- Design working environments that are safe, comfortable and appealing to work in.
- Provide healthy, high quality food, at the lowest possible prices.
- Create places for employees to rest and renew during the course of the working day.
- Offer a well equipped gym and other facilities that encourage employees to move physically and stay fit.
- Define clear and specific expectations for what success looks like in any given job.
- Institute two-way performance reviews.
- Hold leaders and managers accountable for treating all employees with respect and care.
- Create policies that encourage employees to set aside time to focus without interruption on their most important priorities.
- Provide employees with ongoing opportunities and incentives to learn, develop and grow.
- Stand for something beyond simply increasing profits.
I personally agree with the importance of all items in this list, and I think that a wise manager should try to provide them in order to increase the productivity of his employees.
Now the question is: If you are an employee, how do you convince your manager to improve your workplace?
If you observe the list above, it is obvious that most items have some cost, and some of them have a significant cost. For some items it may be easy to compute the Return On Investment (ROI), but for others it may be very difficult. Therefore, as an employee, to convince your manager to really invest in improving the workplace may be a hard task.
Hence, I suggest a different approach: Convince your manager to allow you to invest more time on self-improvement. Convince him to invest on you!
For software developers, self-improvement may include:
- Participating in professional courses.
- Going to group meetings and conferences.
- Being a listener in advanced courses in the CS Faculty.
- Self-study from technical books and articles.
- Learning a new programming language or technology.
- Using and contributing to Open-Source projects and libraries.
- Visiting frequently Q&A sites such as StackOverflow.
- Reading professional blogs.
- Writing your own professional blog.
- Giving talks about your field of expertise.
- Developing prototypes for new products or features.
- Dedicating a fixed amount of time to your own innovation initiatives.
Of course you must also convince your manager that your investment in self-improvement will not reduce your productivity. Perhaps you will even need to work some additional hours to perform these self-improvement activities, but the benefit will come in the form of clear personal growth and development. Good luck!