Alternative workplaces: Then versus now

In 1998, the Harvard Business Review published a futuristic article, The Alternative Workplace: Changing Where and How People Work. While it was a new and exciting concept back then, in 2023, it isn’t too groundbreaking. If anything, it’s the new normal.

It describes remote work and a growing detachment from the traditional workplace. That said, it’s a prophetic-sounding piece from more than 20 years ago that predicted the alternative workplace we’re seeing today. 

Indeed, we have moved from an era in which people actively seek connections with one another to an era in which people decide when and where to disconnect — electronically and socially. Current organizations pursuing alternative workplace initiatives — particularly those with home office arrangements — must be mindful of that paradox. 

The rise of the alternative workplace has been a long time coming, as evidenced by the above passage. The global pandemic was just the latest catalyst driving alternative solutions into the spotlight. Today, alternative workplace strategies have taken center stage and are fulfilling the vision first adopted in 1998.

Alternative workplace definition 

What is an alternative workplace? It’s a fair question and readily answered by many of the work trends we’re familiar with today. Telecommuting and remote work. Coworking. These paint a picture of the alternative workplace. 

Alternative workplaces refer to where employees work that is not in an office, and how that environment supports their productivity.

In 1998, “alternative workplace” focused more specifically on alternatives to working in an office. Today, the definition focuses more on where employees work and how that environment supports them — from a well-furnished coworking space to the free Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop.  

Key elements of the alternative workplace 

Alternative workplaces are highly diverse because they can encompass just about any environment that supports work. So long as it supports your ability to work and it’s outside of the “home base” workplace, it falls under the guise of an alternative workplace. 

A coworking space might have an office feel and all the amenities of a traditional workplace. Still, it’s an alternative workplace because professionals from other companies and career paths surround you. Your home office is an alternative workplace. Even an airport lounge is an alternative workplace — even if you only work there for 45 minutes before a flight. 

Are you sitting in an alternative workspace right now? Take stock of the environment and see if it offers these essential elements: 

  • Are you using your own technology? 
  • Do you have control over your seating? 
  • Do you have control over your work habits? 
  • Is the environment conducive to your work? 
  • Are there people other than coworkers around you? 

Examples of alternative workplace

Most coffee shops, coworking spaces, home offices, breakout spaces, airport terminals, public libraries, and similar facilities fit the bill. But the alternative workplace isn’t only shaped by physical surroundings — more important is how it empowers employees.

Emphasize the worker instead of the workplace 

Alternative workspaces are defined by the freedoms they afford workers. These workplaces sever the tie between work and any one single place, which also means they give employees the power to self-govern. When allowed to choose their own venue and work in their own way, many workers seize the opportunity to do their best work in their best manner. 

It’s not surprising that many companies invested in alternative workplace strategies over the past two decades — even pre-pandemic. Unlinking work from the workplace and instead hitching work to the worker brings untold flexibility to the concept of what a workplace is. Hence, the current rise in alternative workplaces.

If an employee can produce 100% regardless of whether they work at a desk, in an office, or an easy chair at home, does it matter where they work? Most likely not. What if they could accomplish 120% from their easy chair? It’s a very real driver behind the hype in alternative workplaces. 

Alternative workplace concepts come down to an investment in work and the worker, instead of the workplace. So long as they can do the job, who’s to stop employees from doing it in a place that’s comfortable, familiar, and supportive of their personal work habits? It’s a trade many employers willingly make for bolstered productivity, improved culture, and employee satisfaction.

Alternatives are part of today’s modern workplace 

This is not a fad” is a simple but striking sentence in the groundbreaking 1998 Harvard Business Review article. Indeed, it’s not, especially to have survived over 20 years and become the foundation for the adaptive workplace solutions we see today. 

The rise of the internet, cloud applications, and better computing technology have all made alternative workplaces viable solutions as companies navigate the modern workplace.

Remote work, flex scheduling, hoteling, experiential workspaces, and coworking are all alternative forms of work, but they’re only part of the greater alternative workplace employees rely on today. 

Bare Minimum Monday can be a glass half full, not half empty

No matter how you apply it, the term ‘bare minimum’ sounds negative. But what if it didn’t have to be? What if it could be positive and empowering? 

Bare Minimum Monday is a growing work trend that first appeared on TikTok. Employees and employers alike typically see it as a negative in the workplace. How could doing the bare minimum work on Monday possibly be beneficial? 

But as we know, perspective is everything. Keep reading to learn more about Bare Minimum Monday, why it began, who coined the term, and how it can benefit worker productivity and business overall. 

What is Bare Minimum Monday? 

Bare Minimum Monday refers to employees starting their work by doing only the required tasks needed on Mondays. Marisa Jo, a digital creator, developed the viral concept with good intentions — to reduce stress and create more work balance throughout the week. 

She explained, “I would wake up on Monday already feeling behind, overwhelmed, and anxious — this feeling would only compound as the week continued. I was trying to get myself to overachieve my way out of the burnout I was experiencing, but of course, that didn’t work.” 

Tired of the pressure and stress that came every Monday morning, Jo decided to permit herself to take it easy that weekday. Ultimately, she found that her productivity for the entire workweek improved. How, exactly? She discovered that she could increase the quality of her work by pacing herself. 

Bare Minimum Monday is a counterintuitive method for employees to improve mental health, reduce burnout, and improve productivity. The gentle start to the workweek eases the usual pressures and expectations that arise after the weekend, resulting in more consistent and grade-A output by the end of the week. 

That said, after she coined the term on TikTok, Bare Minimum Monday spread like wildfire and its initial logic got lost. People put their own spin on it, using it as an excuse to slack off on Mondays entirely — posting themselves oversleeping, sunbathing at their pool, and anything else not work related — redefining the phrase as a negative. 

Bare Minimum Monday doesn’t mean lazy workers 

Employees who embrace Bare Minimum Monday aren’t lazy. In fact, they end up being more efficient. Hustle culture taught us that taking breaks throughout the workday equates to laziness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Employees who take more breaks work in a way that allows them to be more productive on their own terms without sacrificing their well-being. 

The truth is, no one can work at 100% all the time — it’s entirely natural, not to mention healthy, to have some slower days. Bare Minimum Monday encourages employees to begin the week by embracing the natural flow of productivity rather than trying to force themselves to overwork, ultimately burning them out as soon as the week starts. 

Employees embrace the natural flow of productivity rather than trying to force it.

How can managers encourage their teams to work on their own terms while ensuring they remain engaged? The answer is trust and communication. Managers and employees must have open conversations about their working patterns and productivity. Leadership can set work output expectations that match their teams’ needs. 

When employees have the autonomy to work in a manner that bests suits them, everyone wins. Hybrid work is an adequate model to do this as it balances employees with both remote and in-office work options — ultimately supporting the same goal as Bare Minimum Monday, to reduce burnout and improve productivity. 56% of companies reported this as accurate, stating their organizations surpassed their annual targets thanks to hybrid working.  

It’s no secret that Mondays can sometimes overwhelm professionals. But with Bare Minimum Monday, employees can ease into the week rather than diving in headfirst. No matter where employees work — from home, in the office, or both — and regardless of how many breaks they take or if they work 6.5 hours instead of 8, Bare Minimum Mondays helps reduce stress while ensuring employees are still meeting deadlines.  

So, if Bare Minimum Monday means lazy workers, it’s time to redefine lazy. 

Employees are set up for a productive week 

 Think of Bare Minimum Mondays as a way to protect employees from Quiet Quitting. While Quiet Quitting refers to doing the absolute minimum requirements of the job every day, Bare Minimum Monday focuses on doing less at the start of the workweek so employees can remain productive throughout the remainder of the week. 

Please create an in-text graphic of: Runners don’t sprint at the beginning of a marathon, so why should employees overwork themselves on a Monday?

Think of a marathon. Runners know to pace themselves from the beginning, making sure to start off slow to save energy for the end. Why? Because if they use all of their energy at the beginning of the marathon, they won’t make it to the finish line. The workweek is similar. If employees overwork themselves on Monday, their productivity dwindles before the week ends — just like a runner who starts the race sprinting.  

When workers prioritize three to four less time-consuming tasks to execute on a Monday, they naturally witness increased productivity levels. Employees who don’t try to tackle too many tasks simultaneously allow their creative juices to flow better. 

Contrary to its reputation, Bare Minimum Monday doesn’t encourage employees to slack off but allows them to pace their productivity throughout the week rather than use it all at the start. This career trend brings the lesson of “The Tortoise and the Hare” to the workplace.

How employers benefit from Bare Minimum Monday  

When employers hear of Bare Minimum Monday, most assume it’ll threaten their bottom line. However, leaders who do more research on the trend find that it can significantly benefit their company. 

Employees who properly implement Bare Minimum Monday still meet expectations. But rather than multitasking on too many projects while attending two or three critical meetings, they space their workload throughout the week. For example, a worker can use Mondays to catch up on emails, focus only on priority tasks, and prepare for the week’s upcoming meetings. Bare Minimum Monday can be a glass half full, not half empty. 

Here’s how: 

  • Better employee retention and engagement 
  • Enhances creativity and output 
  • Promotes work-life balance among workers 
  • Supports employees’ mental health 
  • Creates a positive company culture 

Rather than allowing your workforce to define their versions of Bare Minimum Monday, lead the conversation. Have managers talk to their teams about ways to make their Mondays less stressful. An example of a guide for Bare Minimum Monday is: 

On Monday, employees are encouraged to… 

  • Start the day with some form of self-care 
  • Not schedule meetings unless it is the only availability 
  • Work remotely for a portion of the day or the entire day 
  • Only focus on priority tasks and cut out “busy work” for the day 
  • Use that time to properly plan for the week to avoid procrastination 
  • Not stress over deadlines as projects should not be due on Mondays 

Bare Minimum Monday isn’t going away anytime soon. So, if you can’t beat them, then it’s best to join them. Instead of dwelling on how employees could take advantage of the trend, find the positives, partner with your workforce, and leverage Bare Minimum Monday to improve your bottom line. 

Leading the charge will not only benefit your business, but it will express to your employees that you care about their well-being. And in today’s modern workplace, employees demand to be valued and appreciated more than ever. 

Bare Minimum Monday isn’t going anywhere 

The concept behind Bare Minimum Monday is to improve employee health and well-being without decreasing output. If anything, workers who embrace Bare Minimum Monday consistently produce better quality work while avoiding burnout. 

Bare Minimum Monday has taken the workplace by storm, with thousands admitting it’s the secret behind increased productivity and happiness at work. If the trend isn’t harming your business but bettering it, why not embrace it?