Going To The Office Is Sooo Pre-COVID

Businesses need to get rid of their flexible working fears if they want to succeed in a post-COVID world. 

The idea of work-life balance is total bulls***. 

At its core, flexibility has been the domain of working mothers trying to juggle going to work and raising children. Either that, or it’s been an engagement tool, granted as a reward for long service, good work, or a recruitment tactic that only pays lip service in order to win Best Employer awards. 

Before COVID-19, flexibility required employees to find ‘balance’ within a predetermined set of rules and accepted behaviours. You can have balance, but not too much. Make sure you’re seen around the office or else you won’t get that promotion! Oooh, you’re not coming in until 11am? I expected better of you, Linda. 

Now, with the entire world having no choice but to work from home, the dirty little secret is out: “balance” is a load of crap, and people can actually still get work done from home, without seeing their colleagues or bosses for months. 

The concept of balance is bulls*** 

Let me explain. In order to benefit from true flexibility as a business, you have to understand that the concept of “balance” is supremely flawed. Balance, by its very definition suggests that something is completely 50/50. If it’s not, then it’s not balanced. The way we speak about balance – a balanced diet, a balanced relationship, work-life balance – insinuates that these things each have equal sides. But: 

No one eats exactly 50% “healthy” food and 50% “unhealthy” food. 

No one’s relationships are 50% in equal favour of each person. 

And no one lives by spending exactly 50% of their time at work, and 50% at home.

Balance is, quite simply, not a thing. Rather, what we’re looking for is harmony. Or a blend. Or whatever jargon you want to use. This is the approach you must come at flexibility with. 

Consider it like this: a single human being has a maximum capacity of 100% to give, and their entire life must be conducted within this 100%. Like a sliding scale, sometimes the marker is all the way up towards “work”, and other times it will swing the other way towards “family”, or “studying” or something outside of their profession. 

This is a more realistic and manageable approach for both people and businesses. Most people don’t have balance over anything in their lives, but they can personally and individually interpret and apply how they conduct a harmonious life or blend of activities, if given the option. And this autonomy over how they achieve the work they’re tasked with is what everyone really wants.

But what about productivity!?

Well, I am so glad you asked. Many employers – especially in more traditional industries and countries with a more traditional work culture – believe flexibility gives people the chance to be lazy. The presenteeism fears reign supreme, and too many leaders still operate with a “bums in seats” outlook, and simply can’t believe that employees can be equally productive if not sat right at their desk all day. (Seriously, give your people a bit more credit!) 

The truth is that the entire premise of our 9-5, eight-hour workdays are a farce and have never really proven to be the only way of doing things. It could even be argued that the “modern” office is ridiculously outdated and still based on the way things were in the 18th Century. Back then, people were required to come together to operate machinery during the Industrial Revolution – the days were long and unforgiving, and productivity required people to be gathered together in one place. Then, in the 1920s, Henry Ford popularized the 40-hour work week, and America eventually legislated it in the 1930s. Even he knew productivity didn’t require 16-hour days. The issue is that since then – nearly 100 years ago – things still haven’t changed.

Except… so much has changed. Where we once relied on the office that housed the technology we needed, we now have these digital tools at home or in our pocket all day (unless, you know, we accidentally leave it at a café or something). 

The good thing about Covid-19 is it has basically proven the way we work to be bulls***, too. Actually, it’s been proven many times before, but COVID made it apparent to everyone. Here’s one study that found workers in the UK only work 3 hours a day at the office anyway, and here’s another saying Singaporean workers only spend 60% of their time on their work duties in the office, too. 

Now the world has flipped, and with the exception of some jobs, many can be done anywhere. Attendance doesn’t matter and people actually prefer working like this. Even at Mutant, when we polled our teams across Singapore and Malaysia recently, we found: 

  • 90% agree / strongly agree that they are as productive when working from home 
  • 87% feel highly motivated to work from home 
  • 68% enjoy the increased flexibility 
  • 77% enjoy not having to commute 
  • 95% say they’re getting enough support from their direct manager remotely 

We’ve seen this in action and it’s worked. It doesn’t mean there aren’t things to work on, though. For example, 46% of our Mutant staff feel isolated from their colleagues and miss working with them, and 32% find it hard to set a clear schedule to get stuff done when working from home. But knowing this is half the battle and it means we can approach our ‘new way of working’ with actual, real, flexibility. 

There might be risks involved for some businesses, sure, but the rewards are high if your workforce is happy and productive. No one’s going to get it 100% right all the time, but work will still get done. People will be happy to have power over their hours. They will feel satisfied that you trust them to get their work done in the best way for them. They will reward you with fantastic work. 

Flexible working doesn’t mean the hard work stops; it simply means the empty pursuit of “balance” is uncovered for what it really is – bulls***. 

We can’t promise “balance”, but we’re fans of harmony and flexibility. Talk to us at [email protected].

Going Back to Work after Maternity Leave was Easier Than I Thought

I don’t mean that in the literal sense because obviously, I was boobs deep in sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, breastfeeding and every other exhausting by-product of having a newborn. 

But this was my second baby, so I was somewhat prepared. At the very least, I was aware that going back to work meant being pulled into many unexpected directions. I also took heart in the fact that I work for a company that does its very best to cultivate and retain a strong culture of support. Our CEO and Strategic Director have kids and understand what it takes to return to work successfully.

This is vastly different for other new mums. I know friends who returned to work only to find that their organisations don’t want to engage with them, either because they’re too afraid to give new mums work or – more alarmingly – expect them to work like they’re not experiencing the most life-changing event. 

The impact of this is staggering. A report by Ovia Health found that 34% of women did not return to their job after having a child. Another study from the United States found that 43% of female STEM professionals switch fields, transition to part-time work or leave the workforce entirely after having a child. The intangible burden on both stay-at-home mums and working mums are the same though: guilt, boredom, exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed. 

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the same doubts about returning—but I am incredibly lucky to work in a company that supports staff in finding the perfect balance between being a new parent and working. 

So, what does Mutant do differently? 

Found out my needs

Before I returned to work, senior members of the team checked in to enquire about my specific needs. I needed a private nook to pump—and so a week before my return the company set that up for me. It’s probably NBD for big corporates with dedicated pumping rooms, but we’re a growing business and it matters when the company creates something entirely from scratch for you. 

Progressive return policy

The first time I took maternity leave, I didn’t know what to expect and how I’d manage getting back to work. This time around I knew exactly what to expect, partly because of my first experience, but equally because of Mutant’s progressive return policy. Our Gradual Return Maternity Policy provides new mums with an additional four months’ staggered leave beyond the legally required 3-4 months – with full pay. So, when I returned three months after my son was born, I worked just 10 hours per week in that first month. It would be four full months until I was back up to 40+ hours. 

Flexible working hours

My older son goes to pre-school, which means he brings a ton of germs into our house and routinely gets the entire house sick. This means frequent doctor visits and work-from-home days. Fortunately, Mutant has a thriving flexi-work environment, which I fully maximise on days I need to stay home with the kids. And while it’s true I’ve taken more days off since becoming a mum, it has also made me a better worker. I’m now able to manage my time more efficiently by multi-tasking, getting to the point quickly and powering through my days.

Looking to work in a nurturing and supportive environment? Chat with us at [email protected]

Why You Can’t Camouflage a Rotten Company Culture

Infinite snacks, sleep pods and an unrestricted flow of bottled wine on Friday afternoons do not a company culture make.

As nice as it is to boast to your friends about how you have unlimited leave, a never-ending supply of saccharine treats, and virtually no dress code (rather, one that is liberal for the most part), none of these perks really answer the question,. “So, what’s your company culture like?”

There is a general practice of describing company culture in terms of the perks and benefits available. After all, it is the existence (or absence) of these comforts which help people form an impression of what a workplace might be like to work in. And stereotypes help: a workplace where people can absentmindedly munch on snacks while downing carbonated drinks in a hoodie and sweatpants screams liberal and laidback, with virtually no hierarchy. Having to wear formals to work, or any other prescribed outfit, coupled with minimal perks may signal a rigid and stuffy work environment, where micromanagement is the norm.

However, company culture – an integral part of a company’s core identity – is a complex thing to understand and explain. Company culture is an intangible concept, which permeates across all facets of a company – from the way the bosses guide and mentor their subordinates on a daily basis, to the types of corporate partnerships secured.

All the perks and bonuses in the world will not be an adequate camouflage for a company culture that is rotten to its core. A company that doesn’t possess a culture which influences all of its myriad aspects would, simply, collapse. Without a firmly cemented culture, it would not be possible for a company to achieve whatever higher goals it wishes to pursue.

Company culture and organisational behaviour

Claiming that a company has an “open and supportive” company culture means little unless it is put into action. In order to build a concrete culture, firms should draw up actionable, measurable steps in order to achieve it. Culture is an integral part of a corporation’s personality – remove it and you’d be left with a husk of a structure, at best.

Rather than racking their brains trying to put together catchy phrases and quotable slogans, higher executives should set an example for everyone else to follow, and conduct themselves in a way which would act as a gold standard for everyone else to follow. Take Netflix for instance: while their company culture(which is available in the public domain for all to read) has drawn mixed reviews from onlookers, it is unmistakably set in stone, practiced by employees at all levels, and reinforced by senior management.

Company culture and employee satisfaction

A robust company culture sets the blueprints for day-to-day functioning in an office. A healthy company culture will nurture and celebrate all of its talents, provide them with ample opportunities to grow and prove their worth, and harbour a healthy and inclusive working environment for one and to thrive. There is no room for toxic office-related politics and unhealthy workplace rivalries which may end catastrophically for everyone involved.

Being a part of a team would actually mean something, as opposed to company cultures where people treat each other as mere desk-mates. As a result, employees can realise their full potential and be more productive. It creates satisfied and engaged employees who are happy to sing praises about the highly supportive company they have the privilege of working for.

However, cease to take care of the people who work for you, and you will find yourself looking at high levels of burnout, employee turnover and attrition rates, and most crucially, employee dissatisfaction and resentment.

Company culture and external business nature

Piggybacking off of the previous point – if your company’s working “culture” generates more drama than seven seasons of a badly-written soap, you can rest assured they’ll be telling everyone about the thoroughly riveting (code for “harrowing”) time they experienced. And sometimes, disgruntled people don’t just “spill the tea” to their inner circle – if they suffered enough, they will make sure that everyone, from old internship mentors to university professors get to know. So don’t be surprised when people might not want to do business with your company.

Who you choose to do business with, which products you decide to endorse, and which clients you represent – are all an extension of your company culture. Ideally, the businesses you choose to associate your company with should share some of your own corporate culture and values, and represent a stepping stone towards achieving your overall organisational goals. To this end, Mutant follows its own advice – and we have turned down potential clients due to moral misalignments and dodgy tactics.

Work with entities who can reinforce the narrative you choose to create. If you boast of a diverse and inclusive company culture, yet consistently work with people or organisations who are either racist, or support racist ideals, you will just come off as inconsistent or hypocritical.

Mutant’s (awesome) company culture

Here at Mutant, we do have plenty of office perks. I can come to work in an iridescent off-shoulder gown, and no one will bat an eyelid because productivity and capability trumps dress codes. One of our directors bring his dog to the office, so we allow ourselves a little break by taking Instagram stories of Muffin in a hypebeast jacket specially designed for dogs.

The real “perk” however, is Mutant’s wholesome and robust company culture. Given that we’re a mid-sized, tight-knit team, we have ample opportunities to collaborate, and produce great results for all of our clients. While there is a hierarchy in terms of titles, everyone’s ideas are given equal weights, and everyone’s voices are treated as important. Activities such as client brainstorms and kick-off meetings frequently see the younger employees carry their weight, even with senior executives around.

If there is a problem, we work together to solve it. Micromanaging people isn’t a thing here because everyone is trusted with their respective responsibilities – though we are not averse to giving each other a gentle push if work is not done.

Don’t we sound like an awesome place to work? Join the Mutant family by saying ‘hi’ at [email protected]