THROWBACK THURSDAY: Should We Bring Back These Old-School Office Practices?

{excerpted from an article in the Harvard Business Review online}

Progress is good, and the business community has made real advances over the last 50-60 years.

But are there elements of twentieth-century business culture that may be worth preserving? Beyond reading books and handwriting notes, what old school  office habits might be worth resurrecting? At least five suggestions came to mind:

1. Dress well. Business culture (particularly in the U.S.) has grown increasingly casual over the years. Given recent studies showing that dressing well is associated with professional success, perhaps it’s time to revive a culture of greater sophistication in office attire…. trading Dwight Schrute for Don Draper once in a while and aspiring to an occasional concern for aesthetics.

2. Make meetings distraction-free. Many meetings ” even in-person gatherings ” have descended into overdrawn affairs in which the majority of participants are barely listening in-between smartphone messages. Smart, modern workplaces, like Adaptive Path, have had to ban technology in meetings so that everyone acts as a full participant. Doing so can make meetings more focused and productive, and make presenters feel more respected.

3. Lengthen lunch. The modern lunch break is an increasingly unhealthy affair. Many folks stay at their desks for lunch or grab food on the go. But there is also value to periodically taking longer, more leisurely breaks. Experts claim that people who take lunch breaks are healthier and more productive. And finding time ” even once or twice a week ” for an overlong lunch with colleagues has the potential to create stronger relationships at work.

4. Be punctual. It’s become too easy to run late. When we book time with others, we often think it perfectly appropriate to push meetings back so long as we text or email in advance to warn the other participants. But there’s something to be said for old-fashioned punctuality. Sixty years ago, it was important to keep commitments because there was often little opportunity to reschedule on the fly. Being on time keeps us focused, and generates a perception that we’re reliable. It shows respect for other people.

5. Take a real vacation. Americans and South Koreans are among many who are notoriously bad about taking vacation. But if you left the office for a Caribbean beach trip in 1950, it was genuinely hard to stay in touch ” no mail, phone calls, or email could reach you. Now it’s far too easy for vacations to be consumed with email communication and conference call interruptions. Treating every vacation like a 1950s vacation might help those who need to truly relax.

What (if any) “old-school” business practices do you want to bring back? How can they improve your work environment?