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The Office: A haven for success and creativity?

Author: Viktor Vetturelli, COO at qohubs

At the beginning of June 2022, a negative reaction to Elon Musk's call to employees to return to the office echoed in the business world. Almost simultaneously, Apple, with the motto "back to work," obliged employees to return to the offices. At Apple, this led to great dissatisfaction among employees, and some high-ranking employees publicly resigned, for example, Ian Goodfellows, the former head of the machine learning department. The group "AppleTogether" was also founded, which accused the management of being afraid of losing control.


These cases started a public debate about remote work. In this text, I will not answer the question of the pros and cons of remote work and, if so, which regulations should be applied. Managers will have to decide it themselves because, firstly, each company works and acts in its context, for which there is no template solution, and secondly, it is their task for which they are (mostly) well paid.


My goal is to open new perspectives and stimulate thinking.


Human Nature and organizations


Frequently asked questions on this topic:


  • Where should the work take place, and

  • what regulation should apply if we offer a hybrid model, e.g., three days office, two days home office?


Looking for answers only to these two questions indicates superficiality in thinking. If we go into the depth of the problem, it is about what view of humans we carry in ourselves. How does the Management view people, that is, what assumptions does management have about the behavior of people in their organization?


In the 50s of the last century, Scientist Douglas McGregor discovered two views of people, the so-called "X and Y Theory". The mentioned theory says that human behavior results from the assumptions management has about people and what kind of organizational system it creates by these assumptions.


One image of human, the theory X view, says that humans are trying to avoid work, that they are extrinsically motivated, that they don't want to take responsibility, that you must show them the way to the goal, and that they are only creative to trick the management and organizational policies.


On the other hand, there is an image of humans by theory Y that says that people are aware that they have to work and, if the circumstances are good, they even enjoy working; they are intrinsically motivated, they can make decisions independently, pursue a goal, and are also creative.


Management, control, and innovation


In an industrial society driven by efficiency, many companies succeeded despite the prevailing view of humans with behavior according to theory X. But does this view of humans still create value? Even Marvin Bower, one of the architects of success at the consulting company McKinsey, when asked what he regrets the most in his 60 years of consulting the most important international companies, he answers: "The dominance of command and control."


Today, we are experiencing a change from an industrial society to a society of knowledge. According to Wolf Lotter, one of the most respected publicists in the German-speaking world, innovation is the hard currency of the society of knowledge. Innovation means creating new values through new solutions. However, innovation does not come from sitting and working on tasks that serve bureaucracy and internal reporting. The Influential management thinker Gary Hamel writes in his book "Humanocracy" that about 18.4% of American employees deal mainly with bureaucracy, including human resources, finance, accounting, and compliance. Converted into salaries, it is 3.2 trillion dollars.


Again and again, we hear the argument that, for example, the financial sector must be regulated to prevent fraud. However, one wonders how it is precisely in this industry that scandals arise repeatedly, surpassing each other in grotesqueness alone. Bureaucracy does not serve transparency but leads us into a labyrinth where values are not created but fog. In other words, "More fiction is written in Excel than in Word." (author unknown)


The haven of creativity under question


In business, it is about performance, that is, solving problems and making decisions that lead companies to success. However, in companies, performance is often measured by asking how many hours people spend in the office. Indeed, we have all experienced employees who go home on time and are being looked down upon, while those who stay longer in the office receive positive praise (even though productivity was not higher).


When discussing the impact on productivity, whether we work three days in the office and two days from home is not crucial, but what is achieved. Supporters of office work claim that an office is a place of exchange between employees and encourages creativity and an emotional connection with the company. Unfortunately, the reality is different. Even before the pandemic, studies revealed that only 17% of workers expressed an emotional connection to the company. Therefore, it would be wrong to simply divide the flawed, outdated "model of office work" into the office and home office and adapt it to the new world of work.


We need a new system of collaboration that answers the question of what conditions and structures need to be created for the company to be successful and do justice to human nature. Of course, it is not only a matter of economics but also politics because labor law must also be adapted to the modern world of work. Without overcoming the system issues, from the "old" to the "new", the work results will not change.

Edwards Deming truly said, "Every system is perfectly designed to produce the result it achieves."


If you want to prepare your leadership team to deal with complexity and complex questions, drop us a line via or contact us to schedule an Experience Session now.

*This article was written by Viktor Vetturelli and first published in January 2023 on the ICT Business portal.


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