When John Crowley started a new job at a call centre six years ago, he was allowed to put whatever he wanted on his desk. By the time he left, he couldn’t even bring his own mug.
Over those few years, the company gradually reduced the number of personal items its staff could have at work. They did away with family photos, plants and pictures — he wasn’t even allowed to have paper on his desk. He was expected to focus on his computer and make his calls.
Not surprisingly, as these workplace rules became stricter, Crowley’s job satisfaction levels dropped. “In my first couple of years I was lot more energetic and productive than in my last two years,” says the Epworth, England-based writer. “I was feeling better about my work when they [management] weren’t so tough.”
While call centres may not be the most employee-friendly places to work, Crowley’s experience is not unusual, says Craig Knight, a psychologist and founding director of Exeter, UK-based Haddington Knight, a company that uses science to improve business performance. Not being able to have a picture of our kids on our desk may seem trivial, but these rules are significantly impacting company performance, says Knight.