If your boss installed beds in your office…
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…what would you think?
‘Aw, that’s nice. My boss has made it easier for me to have a lunchtime nap.’
‘Christ! I spend enough time in that place as it is. Now, they’lll expect me to sleep there and never go home.’
This will probably come down to the culture in your workplace, as well as the relationship your boss has with their employees. For example, if you work for Elon Musk, any thoughts that the introduction of beds in the office will be to remove the need for employees to leave the premises will probably be on the right lines.
Of course it sounds crazy. But, when you think about it, the intention to keep workers close has been at the forefront of many bosses’ minds over the years. This ethos is even responsible for the creation of hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of communities.
Go back a few hundred years, and wealthy landowners would have built houses for their labourers and grounds staff to live in within the estate. Early in the industrial revolution, whole villages were built around coal mines and paper mills, to ensure the miners and mill workers didn’t have too long a commute to work. Though Musk’s move is in the extreme, the idea of having your workers on-site or a stone’s throw from the workplace is not a new one.
Do you believe these coal mine owners and lords of their manors built houses for their employees out of altruism? Or because employees living nearby are more likely to turn up on time and work longer?
If so, is this any different to Musk’s approach? Does his ‘beds in the office’ idea mirror that of bosses in the past?
Maybe Musk’s move sounds (and probably is) more extreme, given the many workers’ rights people have fought for over many decades. And yet, according to this blog, employers still mete out unreasonable requests between their workforces today. For example, one manager asked an assistant to read out the Harry Potter books to him whilst he worked. Another asked an employee to provide stand-in childcare, which meant taking the boss’s daughter to the cinema. A third asked an employee to impersonate them on an online Scrabble site; the employee was tasked with beating the boss’s wife. These aren’t instructions based on improving an employee’s productivity, granted, but they sound just as crazy as ‘office bedrooms’.
An insider at Musk’s empire seemed clear about the reason beds had been brought into spare rooms within Twitter’s headquarters. They allegedly told Forbes that the beds would make ‘hardcore employees comfortable, as they can stay and work overnight at the office.’ There’s no one as hardcore as Musk, who, as a confirmed workaholic, slept on the Tesla factory floor during the initial design and productions stages of the luxury electric vehicles. Musk says his actions were meant to inspire his staff, to show that he was a ‘hands on’ boss. But is it ’inspiring’ to see your boss almost chaining themselves to their desks? And though it's fine for them if they choose to do this, is it fair to pressure their employees to do the same?
Nancy Rothbard, the David Pottruck Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, believes that such problems begin when boundaries are crossed. She says the end result is that ‘work expands into every part of your life. It’s extremely stressful.’
She adds, ‘The fear is that your manager will think you’re lazy, not committed, or less engaged. Your objective is to set boundaries that create the conditions for your success.’ For example, if your boss or manager is a fan of late-night emails or texts with the expectation of an immediate reply, Rothbard suggests saying the following to them: ‘It’s difficult for me to respond to emails that come in after a certain time because I’m not a night owl. To perform at my highest, I need to go to bed early. I want to find a solution that will meet our goal of effective and productive work.’
That sounds fair enough. But should they, like Musk, suggest you ‘go to bed early’ on the pull-out in the conference room, I’d suggest you look for another job…