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How To Create An Awesome Workplace? A Sri Lankan Guide

How to create an awesome workplace? A Sri Lankan guide

I’m gonna lay it out without sugar coating it. The world is structured in a way where you have to work throughout your life. If you work, you get to earn money. With that money, you can buy food, pay your rent and basically live. It’s a simple truth.

Even if you become an entrepreneur, you will still have to work. And hopefully, your company will have employees who will work for you. And the cycle continues.

This is true for 99.9% of humans. If your dad is rich and you get to do whatever you want in life, this post isn’t for you but that’s a very rare occurrence. The rest of us have to work and that’s just the way it is.

Let’s look at the math for a second

Let’s say you start your work life by 25 years and continued until you’re 60 (retirement age in Sri Lanka).

That’s 35 years of your life. If you lived until 74 (average life expectancy of Sri Lanka), you have been working for almost 50% of your lifetime.

Now let’s look at the number of days.

There are 365 days in a year. Out of that if you take out weekends (102 days), Poya days (12 days), other holidays (15 days), you’re left with about 234 work days (that doesn’t look that bad right?).

If you look at the entire work life it’s going to be 8190 days (35 years x 234 days).

Let’s assume that you work 8 hours a day. That’s 65,520 hours (8 hours x 8190 days) in your life. That’s a long time.

If you have found your dream job and you wake up every Monday dancing around in your underwear and feeling grateful that you get to go to work, you’re sorted. Then you will enjoy your life and hopefully find meaning in it too.

Now imagine if you’re not so happy or hate your job (which most of us are guilty of), your life is going to suck for the majority of the time. That’s no way to live your life.

awesome workplace

Is there a solution?

Gladly there is. The thing is we can make our work more bearable and even fun if we really want it to. The trick is, structuring our work and the environment in a way that work doesn’t feel like work anymore. Many companies have abandoned the “status quo” and have developed many new work habits that are not only beneficial for employees, even for companies.

This post is aimed at people who are in the top seats. Yes. The big dogs. The change has to begin from top to bottom. If you’re ready to adopt some of the concepts discussed in this post, trust me; it will be beneficial for all. I know that you’re going to disagree with certain ideas but try and be open-minded.

Don’t worry about the dress code

I hated my office attire. Why do we have to wear a shirt and tie every day to work in a sunny country like Sri Lanka? Imagine wearing long sleeves with a tie and walking down on a scorching sunny day. You’re sweating from head to toe, like a fish out of the pond. I don’t know why any sane person would wear this uncomfortable combination of clothes to work.

Do you think wearing a tie would increase your skills in anything? I highly doubt that.

Some would argue that a shirt and tie is formal or it gives you status and confidence. If you need a tie to feel good about yourself, you got other problems.

Nobody cares what you wear anymore. As long as you can present yourself in front of a person with a decent outfit, you’re good to go. And a “decent” outfit doesn’t have to necessarily be a shirt and a tie. It can be denim and a plain t-shirt. As long as it’s clean and you look smart, don’t worry too much about the outfit.

This is mostly a problem for Sri Lankan men. In most offices, women get to wear whatever the thing they want. There aren’t any strict rules for them (male discrimination!).

But there are certain organizations (government and banks) that demand women to wear Sarees all day. Now that’s a bummer. If I was a girl, I wouldn’t even join such an organization just because I have to wear Sarees every day! Sarees also reveal half of a girl’s tummy so if you’re trying to achieve some kind of a “cultural” goal by recommending Sarees; that’s not happening.

awesome workplace

Most millennials hate wearing formal all day long. They want to keep things casual. So if you’re trying to attract fresh and creative talent to your organization, one way you can do is by removing strict formal dress codes. Believe it or not, a dress code of a company can make or break the decision to join your company.

Work from home

Ever wondered why every company operates from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.? The 9-5 rule came with the industrial revolution. That’s 200 years ago. Back then, electricity (light for most of us) was scarce so people had to work during natural light, which is from 9-5. Now we have light 24/7 so why do we still have to work from 9-5?

When “industrialists” decided that labors should attend to work from 9-5, there wasn’t internet or computers. But now we have both. Today, we all work using computers and internet which most companies provide anyway. So why not let employees work at least few days from home?

So many companies have realized that working from home benefits everyone. It increases the productivity of employees, reduces the time wasted on commuting, and reduces office expenses. It even increases the loyalty of employees. If more companies in Sri Lanka would convert to work from home, I think it will be a solution to our crazy traffic as well.

“But how do I know whether my employees will work from home?” What if they started fooling around without doing any work? If this is you, here’s a question you have to ask yourself.

If you don’t trust your employees, why did you hire them in the first place?

If you don’t trust your employees, it’s your fault for hiring them. You and I both know that you can’t make a person work just because you can creep behind his shoulder. If they don’t want to work, they will figure a way out even if you have CCTV all over the place.

Give up the 9-5

One of the many mistakes most companies make is, measuring the effectiveness of an employee by the hours they work. If you’re in HR, you can argue saying that “don’t be so silly. We have different KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) for every employee. That’s how we evaluate our employees.” If that’s the case, why have fingerprint machines in your office?

One of my old bosses (yes, I’m talking about you) used to get so pissed even if I turn up 10 minutes late to work. Those 10 minutes is not going to help you achieve your target. This kind of primitive thinking is what’s dragging down many corporates.

awesome workplace

Even though you’re supposed to work 8 hours per day, how many of us actually work 8 hours? 30 minutes for breakfast, 1 hour for lunch, two 5 minute tea breaks, toilet breaks, smoking breaks, chatting about some political crap, bitching about the boss, watching some YouTube videos, Facebook, WhatsApp and other things add up to about 4 hours every day. So frankly, you’re working only about 4 hours even though your appointment letter instructs otherwise.

So get out of the 9-5 mentality. Give more freedom for employees to work on their own schedules. Start evaluating them by the output. Not the time they came to work. When employees feel that their boss trusts them, they won’t feel like fooling around. They will actually be more motivated to do the work.

Think Healthy

I’m gonna throw in a cliché right now.

Healthy body + Healthy mind = Happy employees = More work is done = Happy You!

Admit it. Most of us have really unhealthy habits. We eat things we’re not supposed to eat. We don’t exercise much. We sit about 5 hours a day which is super bad for your health. We are slouched over computers and phones (watch out! Your nose is about to hit your screen).

You have to create a healthy environment for your employees. Even if you have to spend some money on your budget, this will have a compounding effect on your long-term revenue. Here are my suggestions.

Encourage employees to join a gym or at least jog every other day. If they like cycling or any other sport, encourage them to start it. You can even have yoga or cross fit sessions at your workplace.

Since leaving my job, I started meditating again. I’ve been hearing the benefits of meditating for a long time but I never had a consistent practice. Now that I meditate at least 4 days a week, I’m seeing a lot of improvement in my mind. When something goes wrong in my work or life, rather than running around in my underwear (sorry for the underwear jokes), I calm my mind and it has given me peace.

I use an app called Headspace. It’s super simple. You can buy the subscription for your employees and they can start meditating at their leisure. You can even go the extra mile and have meditation sessions at your workplace.

It’s always about your employees

I’m sure you have heard this a thousand times but let me repeat it again.

awesome workplace

Deep down, you know this. You know that you have to start trusting your employees. You know that you have to look after them. You know that you need to treat them right and respect them. You know that you want to treat your staff how you would like to be treated. You know this but for some reason, you don’t follow it.

Why is that?

Life can be pretty hectic with all the revenue goals and other day-to-day pressure. Your to-do list can be a mile long without a single task stroked. That’s just the way it is. You signed up for this. No one pushed you to become a boss. You decided it for yourself. Now that you have taken the responsibility, it’s time to get real with what you have to do. If you can create a better workplace for your employees, it will eventually lead to a “better workplace.”

And after all, isn’t that good enough?

Now What?

If you’re a person who runs a company, I urge you to start implementing these concepts in your organization. You don’t have to change things permanently. You can do a trial first. If you’re are an employee who’s reading this, forward this to your HR department or someone who is responsible for making the decision.

Now, if you like (or hate) this post, comment below and let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts. If you know any great organizations which practice these concepts, comment that too.

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Nishan De Silva

Nishan is the founder of He is a life enthusiast who loves reading and eating. His ambition is to travel 100 countries before dying (even though he hasn't been out of the country yet!)

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