How work culture has evolved in the early 21st century — 8 features of the ideal modern-day company

Gone are the days where work was the dastardly scheme of the bourgeoisie, dead set on milking the proletariat for all their worth.

Forget old Karl Marx. Enter work-life balance and work fulfillment.

Back when our country first gained independence, our forefathers would never have dreamt of these concepts which are so prized now. They were set on creating a relatively stable life for themselves, climbing out of poverty into status symbols like the 5Cs.

Nowadays, our prevailing culture is such that we treasure not just a solid, stable future but also how we are living in the moment. Just consider the phrase YOLO (You Only Live Once). Where our collective consciousness was once burdened with third-world (survival itself) concerns, we are now afflicted with first-world (living well) concerns.

The face of the playing field has changed.

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Now, we know not to blindly accept karoushi (overworking oneself to death). We know that we have the agency to choose our own paths in life. Our lives belong to us and are for us to helm as we see fit.

Couple that with the rise of the internet, the global pandemic…

How might the work culture at a modern-day company which encapsulates our modern values be like?

1: Fun

All work and no play makes Jack/Jill miserable. An ideal company would have leisure options for their employees in their downtime. This should motivate the workers and make them happy. It would also be good for team bonding within the company itself.

Additionally, an ideal company would facilitate outings or events where the employees would go out together and enjoy themselves a lot. Not only would it be a breath of fresh air and change of pace for them, it would also help in reinforcing their sense of identity as a member of the group. They might have so much fun, they’d never want to leave!

Did you know that 60% of 2015 graduates said they would rather work for a company with a ‘positive social atmosphere’ even if it means earning less? Go figure!

2: Order

Even as fun is important, a company cannot do without order. A company needs to have a streamlined system for doing things or everything would simply be chaotic. Technically known as the optimisation of processes, the overall goal is a sturdy, documented reliable system which works well.

However, that so-called order cannot actually refer to robotic efficiency at the expense of the human side. The ideal company remembers and celebrates the birthdays of its employees, celebrating them and appreciating the work they have done. Said order promoted by the ideal company simultaneously provides a positive feedback cycle in their work processes and lifts spirits by creating an atmosphere of high camaraderie.

Did you know that inculcated (workplace) rituals help to regulate emotions, elevate performance states and foster social connections?

3: Respect

The ideal company espouses the ideal of respect in a world of differences. For instance, they would neither ostracise the Muslim during the fasting month nor the woman going for maternity leave. Rather, they would treat them as a part of their family, empathise with them and make sure to include them as much as possible.

Additionally, the ideal company respects that their employees have lives outside of work. While it is sometimes necessary to work after normal working hours, the work-life boundaries are properly enforced as a general rule. Employees usually end work on time and are not required to respond to work-related enquiries outside of their stipulated hours.

Did you know that gaming companies Blizzard, Riot and Ubisoft all recently came under scrutiny for sexism and have been pushing for greater diversity in a form of social progress?

4: Endeavour

Sometimes, there are bad apples with rotten attitudes who tarnish the reputations of their companies. Hence, the ideal company vets their incoming employees stringently. Cultural fit is the most significant as more important than qualifications are motivations and personality and attitude.

In investing its resources into grooming its employees, the ideal company places its trust in them to do the right thing. It should be a win-win situation as the employee adds value to the company through their work even as the company brings out the best in the employee in facilitating their growth. Meanwhile, the employee should reciprocate by demonstrating a positive work attitude as they seek to reach new heights with the company together.

Did you know that the result of turnover due to poor cultural fit can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary?

5: Transparency

The ideal company is transparent with its goals and processes. That way, its employees can be properly be aligned with their vision and be on the same page as them. They will also be more motivated to strive towards a common goal with the company as there is a fostered sense of belonging and identity.

The ideal company is upfront with their employees on their performance and their expectations of them. In return, the employees are also transparent with the company by providing honest feedback on what can be done better. This is easy logic, really. Things cannot be improved unless they are brought to one’s attention, following which they try to constructively do something about it.

Did you know that based on a 2013 survey of 300+ global organisations, transparency is the No.1 factor contributing to employee happiness?

6: Equality

The ideal company does not focus on oppressive hierarchy. Normal employees are able to laugh and joke around with the bosses as equals. No one is superior to another with everyone fundamentally being part of the same team, working towards the same goals.

In an ideal company, the higher-ups do not force you to do things with the attitude of ‘my word is absolute’. Rather, they give feedback in the form of suggestions hoping that you can see the rationale behind it and adjust accordingly. Stinging put-downs and harsh rebukes are seen as loutish rather than civilised, toxic rather than constructive.

Did you know that empathy is seen as the most important skill for leaders, without which people are less innovative and more likely to quit their jobs?

7: Autonomy

The ideal company provides a relatively loose structure for doing things. They do not micromanage your every move. Rather, they expect you to manage your own time in working to complete the tasks that they have set you. Rather than have them breathing down your neck, you rely on yourself to structure your workflow properly and get everything done.

Different people have different ways to maximise their overall productivity. Some people may work better in consistent pacing, others in quick spurts. The ideal company recognises this and merely asks that they get their work done, and done satisfactorily of course. Rigidly forcing someone to be productive all the time is counter-productive and will instead prevent them from doing their best work.

Did you know that alongside the sense of loss of control by employees when micro-managed by their higher-ups, the brain’s emotional response center actually causes a decrease in cognitive functioning?

8: Magnanimity

The ideal company is magnanimous rather than stingy. They pay for meals in treating their employees every now and then and sponsor the Grab when the employees have to travel around for work. They give generous red packets during CNY. They don’t lose sight of the big money for the small money, one might say. Welfare and morale is important.

Even if the employees sometimes talk about other stuff during work hours, deviating for a quick who-knows-what outside of the official programme, the ideal company will turn a blind eye. Hey, as long as they’re getting everything properly done, it’s all fine! No need to be a party pooper.

Did you know that generosity begets generosity as others seek to reciprocate, leading to long-term positive relationships and greater results?

Conclusion

So these are the features of the ideal company, the foremost teams, with the FORETEAM framework!

For students, entering the workforce is an inevitable process they must face. Yet, not having had much experience in the like before, they might not know what they should look out for, what good work culture is.

We hope that this can serve as a guidepost for your more smooth-sailing new life stage ahead!

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