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Work Naked

Underlying truths for the virtual office


"Work naked - telecommute".

The old joke has evolved into a business metaphor, with the publication of Work Naked - Eight Essential Principles for Peak Performance in the Virtual Workplace, by US virtual workplace expert Cynthia Froggatt.

"Your employees are smart, creative, full of potential, but are outdated mindsets about workstyles stifling their contributions? It's time to trust your employees - and yourself - to Work Naked"

So runs the message on the cover, and in many ways it sums up the book. It's time to strip away the old layers that we habitually associate with work. Too much of what we do is unnecessary, and is done for appearances' sake or out of a misplaced conservatism. It's time to get radical - and the virtual workplace gives us the opportunity to liberate ourselves from those traditional and counter-productive restraints - such as:

  • wasting time commuting

  • thinking we can only manage people if we see them

  • working in unsuitable work environments

  • allocating work space on the basis of status

  • not trusting employees.

So, if people go home and want to work naked, why not? Having to dress for the part is no longer appropriate. "Knowledge work," the author writes, "is not something to be observed with the eye". Whether you are in the office or not, no one can see if you are really working. Dressing up and going to a workplace to do work which could be done anywhere is essentially part of a ritual that has more to do with controlling and impressing than with serious work.

Beyond the iconoclastic humour of the title, Cynthia Froggatt outlines her "Eight Principles" to redefine corporate culture in the new world of work. The new culture should promote:

  • Initiative - having the courage to innovate and change

  • Trust - moving from "how do I know they are working" to "How will I know I'm being productive"

  • Joy - emphasising fun and fulfilment rather than workaholism

  • Individuality - helping individuals to discover the workstyle that suits them best

  • Equality - shedding status symbols, territoriality and needless hierarchy

  • Dialogue - shedding office politics in favour of open communication

  • Connectivity - reducing reliance on face-to-face interaction and using the new technologies to develop a wider sense of community

  • Workplace Options - shedding the requirement for the commute to the corporate office, increasing choice of workplace and redesigning common work spaces.

These themes are developed in a series of well researched chapters, including frequent case study references. Each chapter ends up with a summary outlining the things that "change agents" should be responsible for, and the things that employees should be responsible for themselves. There's also a pretty good section on further resources.

The book is written with pace, and a kind of missionary energy. The author clearly believes in her mission for change. The result is a very readable book, providing access to a wealth of information in plain English.

In summary: Fun title. Serious book. Read it if you need to shake some corporate foundations.

If you work at home, and want to work in your jim-jams, bikini, or in the altogether, why not?

Videoconferencing, I guess, when it comes along.

But until then, your clothing or lack of them can be seen as a symbolic casting off of corporate inhibition. This is the view, at least, of Cynthia Froggatt in her book Work Naked.

I say, if it's good enough for Archimedes, why not the rest of us?

 

Work Naked - Eight Essential Principles for Peak Performance in the Virtual Workplace, by Cynthia Froggatt, is published by Jossey-Bass,
ISBN 0-7879-5390-3

Further details on the website: www.worknakedbook.com