Why WeWork: What past generations teach us about workplace culture

Ryan Spong
By Ryan Spong
August 22, 2018

A friend and colleague from Denver recently lost her grandfather. A family patriarch. During his 90 years, he fought in WWII, nourished a 38-year marriage and loving family, and founded the Vail Mountain Resort. By all accounts, his life was well lived.

In the Spring of 2001, I lost my own grandfather, who had a similar life story. He returned from WWII as a Radio Operator and opened a radio repair store. It spawned a 40-year successful TV and music-store chain called Fraser Radio. He sold the business long before big-box stores and online giants disrupted the industry.

It was my grandfather who inspired me to become an entrepreneur. Which brings me to my point.

Many of the life lessons my colleague gleaned from her grandfather mirror those I learned from mine. If these life lessons were universal to a past generation of entrepreneurs, can we—as a modern, shape-shifting workforce—still find relevance in them?


Top five lessons learned from our grandfathers

  1. Life happens here and now. Presence is key.
  2. Treat people with honour and dignity.
  3. Any conflict can resolve from a place of diplomacy and tact.
  4. Respect your primary relationships.
  5. Keep it simple and have fun.

But this isn’t a blog post on the rules for living.

This is a missive on why we’re partnering with WeWork. Our rationale behind shifting to a flexible workplace, including working from home. A post to guide and inspire our colleagues, teams, and company through this transition.

What past generations teach us about workplace culture

What can two WWII-veterans-turned-entrepreneurs teach us about workplace culture in tech startups today?

1. Mindfulness: Life happens here and now. Presence is key.

So much of showing up to an office is painful. Routine can be good, but it can also be bad, often going hand-in-hand with forced monotony. This deadens our minds and spirits, leaving us to vacate the present to find stimulation elsewhere.

But flex work, which we will offer to our team, provides the time, space, and privacy for mindful activities. Some activities could include stretching, walking, meditating, dancing, or playing music. Taking a mindful moment refreshes us for more engaged—and higher quality—work.


2. Trust: Treat people with honour and dignity. 

Don’t fear that your team will slack off if given the chance. Autonomy, after all, is a powerful motivator and linked to increased employee satisfaction. But it requires trust if it’s going to work.

Know that, like you, the people around you want to succeed. They want to work hard, be happy, and engaged. By giving your team the freedom to work how, where, and when they want, you’re giving them your trust.

3. Respect: Any conflict can resolve from a place of diplomacy and tact. 

Having a decentralized team means that good old-fashioned face time is rarer. This is where the value of mutual respect and clear communications come in.

Consider investing in management training, especially for resolving disputes among decentralized teams. Likewise, teams will need more support and better tools than ever before. Give leaders tools like annual strategic goal setting, tactical planning, and quarterly scorecards. Set up company-wide, in-person Town Halls, weekly all-hands, and weekly kick-off meetings.

4. Loyalty: Respect your primary relationships

Many of the above themes tie into loyalty and respect. Give your teams autonomy, purpose, and space to work, and watch them become masters in what they do. By showing that you respect their work, they will reciprocate through loyalty.

But loyalty must exist without bonds. Like in any relationship, distrust breeds more distrust. As does negativity and lack of motivation, purpose, and respect.

Why WeWork

5. Positivity: Keep it simple and have fun.

Which brings me to my final point on the power of positivity.

Having a decentralized team requires a strong, positive company culture. This means that your workplace should be fun for everyone. Because, at the end of the day, we all want to enjoy what we do—and where or how we spend our time.

Why not let employees sit—or stand—where they want? With who they want? If working in a loud, quiet, closed, or open space makes them happy, that works for us. WeWork has every type of work environment for every individual. Let them find a spot where they’re happy and most productive—and close the positive feedback loop.

Our grandparents may have worked in another era, but some workplace values are timeless.

Ryan Spong

About Ryan

Reformed pizza-fueled investment banker, Co-owner of Tacofino Cantina and CEO/Co-founder at Foodee.

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