181208 open offices
As much as usage of space, what people wear dictates workplace ethos and performance. Spread the message... Image Credit: Supplied

Until recently, I was the only one wearing sneakers at the workplace. In terms of dress code, there was no clarity as to whether you could or you could not.

During the same time, a specific brand became the go-to brand for everyone skipping formal/smart casual shoes as they leave the traditional sandals behind. In my specific case, I had to make the switch because of the medical issues I encountered wearing sandals and formal/smart casual shoes. (I will spare you the personal, medical details here...)

The main point is that I have never felt better since. Not because I was the guy who wore sneakers to work, though that added a specific mysterious edge to it all. But because sneakers are way more comfortable.

An added side benefit here is that I try to do as many steps as possible during working hours, which just happens to be easier done when you do not need to worry about slippery sandals or tight shoes. In my head, it is about moving every hour, not about having the mysterious edge.

Matter of colour

The turning point was, however, when I decided to wear a Yeezy pair with at least three colours in it. The rest is history.

One after another, individuals in the department started to make the switch from traditional sandals to smart casual shoes. Eventually, I started seeing Yeezy shoes wherever I looked, though with more subtle colours. Interestingly, and notably, the change that took place was not just a fashion focussed one.

There was a change in attitude and a change in how individuals interacted with one another. The change in footwear was collateral, signalling a shift in culture that was uptight and judgemental at best to one that is friendlier and easy going. Before taking this as nothing but an overexaggerated extrapolation, allow me to explain what this Yeezy culture seems like.

A nod to corporate culture

Earlier on in my career, I used to believe that pay is a key component in the retention and attraction of good people. Being able to progress, both career-wise and money-wise, was supposed to do the rest in lowering turnover and attrition rates.

While partly true, the story does not end here. Culture, it seems, is more important than pay. It largely has to do with being able to be yourself in the workplace, knowing that there is enough flexibility that does not offend the dress code or infringe upon deadlines.

This also goes to being able to operate without the need to keep track of your attendance. In a Yeezy culture, the focus is on performance and your ability to deliver on time, not on your attendance. The better you are at that, the less important it becomes what time you show up at work and how many hours you have actually clocked in.

Open minded

Moreover, a Yeezy culture is relaxed, accepting of different views and opinions, and open to new ideas. In particular, it encourages ideas that would further improve the work environment, turning it from a conventional working place to one that stimulates creative thinking, triggers intellectual curiosity, and nurtures talent.

Such a working environment allows individuals to take frequent breaks to wind down and enjoy a Ping-Pong or a Foosball game every now and then, or to opt for other less physically active games, such as chess, Monopoly Deal, and Jackaroo.

The fact that you can, even if you do not do so on daily basis, is what matters to know that such behaviour is acceptable and that the Yeezy culture is here to stay. It also demonstrates to everyone that they are in fact who makes the culture, not the person who introduced its initial hallmarks.

This, in turn, enshrines the Yeezy culture in the workplace and guarantees its long-term survival. The last thought that I want to leave you with: How can a work culture outlive its instigator?

- Abdulnasser Alshaali is a UAE based economist.