WORK life integration. Instead of trying to balance the two separate spheres in our lives, our professional and personal lives are now deeply personal and inextricably linked – and we want to see value in all we do. Organisations aware of this can focus on creating a more conscious culture.

When I returned to the Slade offices in January, our new agile workspace beckoned. Bright, white and light, the choices were endless – was it a window seat, cosy corner or lounge chair today? Walking past our lockers now housing our precious belongings that no longer took pride of place on the desk, and with my cloud-based Chromebook in hand, I had a moment to reflect on this time last year: the rigidity of our office environment had dramatically changed and no one was watching the clock.

The advent of technology and more flexible working arrangements has highlighted that the bricks and mortar of traditional workplaces are no longer required for people to do their jobs effectively in our hyper-connected world. Whilst the office environs at Slade had changed, what hadn’t changed was the focus on creating a positive, friendly, empowering and supportive culture that leads to productivity and high performance.

The mood was set on day one. Geoff Slade, Chairman and Founder of Slade Group, called a company-wide meeting inviting all of us to see the New Year as a fresh start. “Our relationship with our customers is formed strongly on trust; an ideal that is fortunately consistent with our family owned business. The key point here is that we need to focus on creativity. We need to be creative in adapting to changes in our industry.” He spoke of the importance of creating that enviable culture, but swiftly reminded us to focus on business development, delivery and customer service which is key to our business, “You need to be clear about the market you are in and what you know about it.”

This is no different to the way our clients are viewing culture in their workplaces. Cultural fit and character are now taking the front seat for employers when assessing potential candidates, with many adopting the ‘hire character, train skill’ approach. With Millennials and Baby Boomers working alongside each other, making sure there is strong alignment to the values and vision of the company is critical in bridging that generation gap in today’s diverse workforce.

The importance of getting the culture right, was highlighted in recent articles published on The Slade Report Work is a thing we do, not a place we go and We’re curious: What’s your experience with Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and Hot Desking, where readers agreed moving to an agile environment was beneficial provided key rules were followed. One Slade Report reader stated “I am a big believer in agile work practices and the benefit they provide employees and businesses alike. We recently undertook a similar process… We transformed our 450 person traditional office space to an agile hot-desking environment with great success.” The reader goes on to describe how they made it happen in five simple points:

  1. Redesigning our office space to drive what we do, not where we sit.
  2. Introducing and encouraging flexible working patterns that gives us more control over the way we work.
  3. Ensuring our IT tools improve communication and collaboration.
  4. Maintaining a greater focus on measuring performance by outcomes.
  5. Facilitating a process of culture change across the organisation which was in line with our cultural statement – this included significant employee and leader training particularly around the notion of presentee-ism and managing performance by outcomes.

Olivia Holmes, HR Business Partner, M&K Lawyers

Certainly Geoff’s aim when he addressed our team was to ensure that Slade’s world @work means continued respect to engagement, trust, flexibility and productivity – all underpinned by that elusive, enviable culture. Slade Group Executive Director, Anita Ziemer, agrees the changes are positive: “We already have a range of different employee arrangements, and yet time related language, as in full-time and part-time seems to be old school and unrelated to productivity, culture and performance. So agile seems much more appropriate offering the flexibility we’re seeking in managing our professional and personal lives.”

What Anita is describing is a culture term we will definitely be hearing more of in 2015: work life integration.

What is your view?