Can you believe Office Space was released 17 years ago? (Yikes!) As I was just reading Josh Bersin’s fabulous article about the way companies are evolving to cater to the way humans like to work, I was thinking back to this cult classic about the soul-crushing monotony of office life and how times have really changed. Let’s look at how far we’ve come since Milton sat in the basement mumbling about his stapler:
Computer programmers (or today, software developers) would never be worried about job security: In today’s technology-based work world, Peter, Samir, and Michael would not be worrying about layoffs; they’d be entertaining multiple job offers or simply contracting to capitalize on the demand. We certainly have trouble finding enough skilled developers here at WorkStride, and we know we’re not alone. (By the way, wanna work here?) Glassdoor.com rated Software Engineer as one of the top 25 best jobs of 2015, with over 100,000 openings and an average base salary of $98,074. It’s no coincidence that today’s work environment has morphed into a place that these young, in-demand workers actually want to be.
Lumbergh would not have made it to an executive position: These days it is accepted as conventional wisdom that skilled managers who engage their employees improve productivity, while bad managers hurt it. Lumbergh clearly did not care about his employees, regularly asking them to work on the weekends and assigning them the most monotonous of tasks, like updating date fields in bank software. Today Lumbergh would be expected to challenge his direct reports and encourage them to innovate, perhaps by writing a script that could automatically run TPS reports and display them on a dashboard instead of printing them out with those wasteful cover sheets.
Peter wouldn’t have eight different bosses: One of Peter’s many comments to the consultants, Bob and Bob, is that he has eight different bosses, and he hears from all of them when he makes a mistake. As Bersin’s article points out, companies today are evolving from the hierarchal structures that would make something like this possible to networks of teams that form and disband as projects dictate. In today’s world, Peter would have eight teammates instead, and they’d all be working together to solve the Y2K banking software crisis in the most efficient way possible so they could move on to other projects.
Lumbergh would have to change his ways to get work done: Going along with the new team-based manner in which companies are operating, today’s manager needs to be more than just a paper pusher who reads reports and doles out orders. Bersin writes, “As leaders of teams and networks, we have to promote practices that bring people together, help people develop, and also focus on topics like onboarding (people change teams regularly), work-life balance, career transition management, and wellness.” Managers today need soft skills like emotional intelligence to build effective teams and retain high-value employees. So…yeah…if you could learn some empathy today…that would be great.
The company culture would be unrecognizable: Gone are many of the old dress codes that made casual Fridays (or Hawaiian shirt days) necessary, especially at software companies. The boring khakis and button downs sported by Peter and the gang have been replaced by hoodies, jeans, and sneakers. There would also be little need for the group to spend so much time at Chotchkie’s drinking coffee since the office would be fully stocked with beverages and snacks. The cubicle wall that Peter unceremoniously knocked down probably wouldn’t exist, as he’d be sitting on a bean bag in an open concept area typing away on his laptop.
While Office Space is still one of the greatest movies of all time, today it has become apparent that it’s a bit of a time capsule. Let’s all be grateful that we can laugh at this movie today for different reasons—not because we can relate now—but because we are relieved that work culture has come such a long way. We all get a case of the Mondays every now and then, but hopefully it’s not every day. And if it is, come check us out at WorkStride.com!