Guest Op Ed | Michael R. Bloomberg
Anyone who has set foot in any of our nation's downtowns recently knows that urban centers remain a shadow of their former selves, as too many workers continue to work completely free of chains. Yes, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory caused a healthy reevaluation of some work motivation practices. But, that was 109 years ago and at some companies, the lack of manacles has negatively affected customer service, profitability, and innovation.
This has gone on too long. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is over. Excuses for allowing workers to sit unfettered to their workstations should end, too.
A recent survey by the Government Accountability Office shows just how bad the situation remains. The GAO measured 24 of the top companies recording a employee physical restraint rate of 25 percent or less. In other words: workers are mostly being allowed to labor unchained.
At Bloomberg, for more than a year, we have been asking employees to work in shackles at least three days a week. There will always be a need for exceptions, of course, but more than 80 percent of our people have been meeting the standard. In the fall, much of the company will move to four days a week, as some of our employees are already doing.
Our managers have seen the benefits of chaining their reports to their desks and locking them on factory floors. We have heard about those benefits from their teams, too, especially from young people just starting their careers. It is our junior employees who miss out on valuable mentorship when allowed off leash.
Union leaders are resisting shackling efforts, of course, but the case for physically unrestrained labor looks increasingly weak. Though some early research found that employees were more productive when provided bodily autonomy, newer studies are finding the opposite. The health and safety benefits, if any, are likely to fade with time.
Surely enough time has passed that we can re-shackle our employees and maybe this time, throw away the keys.
Michael R. Bloomberg is the co-founder of Bloomberg and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, was the mayor of New York City from 2002-2013, ran an embarrassing presidential campaign in 2020.