In the past two decades, the workplace has changed significantly. The days of stiff corporate attire and equally formal business environments and processes have seen dramatic transformations. This has been seen in particular within the startup environment but even within the classic corporate world it’s a new workplace experience. Many companies strive today to have great company cultures, often centered around building teams, camaraderie, and a sense of community among employees. Companies often involve teams and staff in larger company decisions, and many aim for transparency in areas of the business that had often been undisclosed in most work environments.
While this shift has had many great benefits to organizations and teams, it can also present some new and unexpected challenges for leadership and management. As the workplace becomes more friendly, casual, and relaxed, and co-workers begin feeling more like family and friends, it can become a unique balance for everyone — not just in keeping environments and workflow professional, but potential need for defining new boundaries and practices. For many employees, the new connection to the company or team can also mean an increased sense of ownership. Increased social engagement and bonding among employees have in some instances created new issues, from disputes and arguments that spill into the work environment, or even instances of inappropriate behaviors.
As leaders and managers, it can become a delicate balance not just in our own interactions with our colleagues and teams, but also in creating an environment for everyone that fosters community, culture and participation, but also has the right kind of boundaries established to keep the company organizationally and operationally structured. The key, of course, always begins with leading by example. Many of us aim and look to creating the culture only, without thinking through what it needs to look like from all angles including our own interactions, example and behaviors. By doing so before the first company outing or foosball table is put together, it can help set a precedent for all that will help keep the work environment professional and sharp while creating and fostering the benefits of today’s more casual, fun work world.
You’ll also want to consult with legal team to ensure that any bases that need to be covered in company policies or employee handbooks fit your environment — not just the standard company basics. An example can be how should you handle employees that might take the casual dress code a little too casual? What if someone on the team comes to the office in short shorts or a muscle tank top, etc.? Last, how do you want issues and conflict to be handled should any arrive? An ounce of advance preparation — including in your own day-to-day approach and interaction — can create a great company environment while still giving teams and operations the right kind of fences.