I have been working abroad, in developing countries, for a couple of years now. All the hotels I worked at were luxurious 5 star properties, and only my current hotel is in a slightly lower 4 star category. But almost all the hotels had (and still have) one thing in common. Their back-office areas tend to be disastrous.
As a matter of fact, this is valid not only for developing countries, but in general hotels tend to put a lower emphasise on their employee areas. While the situation is not super-bad in Europe, it certainly lacks behind the development of office cultures that young start-ups and established bigger players turned to in recent years.
My current hotel is probably the worst in those terms that I ever worked at. Constantly broken and clogged toilets, holes in walls, water-leaks whenever it rains, hell, I even got electrocuted by our copy-machine as it was not properly earthed. Luckily it was a low voltage. The canteen has plastic chairs, aluminium cutlery, and broken tables. It’s full of mosquitos that will fall upon me as soon as I take a seat. Not an amazing experience for an area that is regularly plagued by dengue fever. For the first few months, it was difficult to have paper towels and soap in all team toilets present at all times and you might guess it, there was not even one plant or picture anywhere in plain sight.
While during my first year here I tried to fix as many of those issues as possible, and was partly successful, for the majority of the problems I found only little understanding from the hotel owners, and surprisingly, not much appreciation from my employees as well. While this kind of experiences can be frustrating, I am trying to not get discouraged and fight for a better office culture.
A managers office is his home
It really is. I spend 6 days a week in my office and tend to be there from 8:30 am until 7:30 pm. I spend more time in my office than I spend with my family. I spend more time talking to my employees than I talk to my daughter, my wife, my parents and my best friends – combined. I stare at my laptop and work on excel sheets, websites, social media, guest requests, corporate systems, restaurant menus, budgets, cocktail recipes, event preparations, staff evaluations and permanent requests from hotel owners. I talk with suppliers, have normal meetings, skype meetings, webinars and got to visit occasional events to keep myself informed about the market and upcoming challenges that the world is constantly throwing at us from every corner of the world.
Doing all this and spending so much time at work, it really matters how you feel in your office. It is not your second home. You just have to admit to yourself that your office is your first home.
A new office culture
Just a few months back in July, I went back to Europe to visit my parents, and as I am planning to stop the rat race in a very foreseeable future (just reading the previous paragraph is actually giving me an energy blast to really keep working on my plan), I have visited a few co-working spaces in Berlin.
Why did I do that? Well, frankly, I am pretty sure that I can’t stop working. I love to work and I love to be kept busy. I love to meet people and I love to try to do my part to help improve this world for someone else a little bit every day. I am just pretty sure that I don’t want to do it with such a work-load as I am having now. Thus, escaping the rate race will mean for me to work on my own terms, far less and most probably on a freelance basis. But more on this another time.
So, I visited this co-working offices – and I was truly amazed. Beautiful offices with open plan spaces that looked rather like brushed up Starbucks shops than an office. Then, there were also neat and smart modular offices for small teams or individuals, fully equipped with everything one would need to get things done. And on top of that, they were all kept in warm earth-tones, in beautiful locations around parks or with amazing city views. To top the cake with a cherry, all the offices had free soft-drinks, coffee, daily fresh fruits, some were pet friendly, had showers for people who like to jogg or come on a bicycle to work AND many were accessible 24/7. Free high speed wi-fi, electric sockets with international plugs and electric / power protection were obviously standard.
That’s when it occurred to me. People are tired of ugly offices, and yes, I am not alone out there.
Spread the word
So, why am I writing all this? I would really like to encourage all the employees out there to spread the word. Don’t accept ugly offices. Don’t accept broken toilets and water leaks. Don’t accept lacks of hygiene, health and safety. I am going to leave my hotel in 7 months from now, as my contract is about to expire, and I will keep trying to fix and improve more of this until the last day. But it’s important that people really talk about this. Only then business owners and managers, such as myself, will receive not only the pressure but also the support that is necessary to drive change.
The whole world is talking about the next big disruption. Well, I don’t need a disruption. I just want a nice office.