08 Jul 2016 15:58 IST

The Naked Corporation

What happened in Belarus last week?

Ah, yes. Transparency in business: as relevant today as when Don Tapscott and David Ticoll wrote about it in 2012.

It may well be, but I’m not talking about that Naked Corporation, in which the management gurus call upon companies to get transparent in the era of the digital revolution — or as they put it succinctly: “undress for success.”

What then?

I’m talking of an epidemic of nudity in the workplace that unfolded in Belarus last week, when workers in various professions stripped down — and uploaded photographs of themselves at work in the buff onto social media platforms.

I see: a too-literal rendition of the Naked Corporation at work. But why did the folks in Belarus give in to such minimalist officewear?

Well, because their President told them to!

You’ve got to be kidding me!

Not at all. Last week, President Alexander Lukashenko, considered the “last dictator in Europe”, was looking to give an inspirational national speech on the importance of technology to the economy.

But a slip of the Presidential tongue tripped him up badly: where he intended to say “razvivát’sja” (which means “to develop” or “to progress”) in the workplace, he ended up saying “razdevát’sja” (which means “to disrobe”). So, what a startled nation heard was their idiosyncratic President say: “Innovations, IT technologies… we’ve conquered all of them… We should get undressed and work till we sweat.”

In mocking response, thousands of Belarusians — from factory workers to artists to journalists to lawyers — flooded social media platforms with buck-naked pictures of themselves at work, their modesty barely protected by the tools of their respective trade. But, you know what, workplace productivity may well have improved that day in Belarus.

How so?

Well, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that workplace productivity is marginally enhanced by having employees work in the altogether. This is particularly true of the creative industry.

Seriously?

Yes, although like I said it’s just anecdotal evidence for now, and requires more formal scientific validation. For instance, in 2009, employees at onebestway, a designing and marketing consultancy in Newcastle-upon-Thyne, implemented a Naked Friday protocol on the advice of a business psychologist. The idea was to get staff to “strip away their inhibitions” and engender trust in one another. A radical proposition, of course, but one that its employees claim worked wonders for team-building morale in periods of economic downturn. More recently, Bold Italic, a publishing house in California, went in for a “naked month” at work. Again, both employees and employers claimed it had a hugely beneficial effect on productivity.

Sounds cuckoo to me.

Actually, some of the keenest minds in history have borne testimony to the merits of nudity in spurring their creativity. Writer Franz Kafka used to perform calisthenics in the nude, and was given to sunbathing in the buff, in the belief that it inspired creativity among artists and writers. Kafka even enrolled briefly at a nudist colony, acknowledges author Mark Anderson in his book Kafka’s Clothes.

And Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers and a Renaissance Man with accomplishments as author, printer, political theorist, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, and diplomat, was partial to “air baths” — that is, he was given to sitting in his chamber without any clothes, either reading or writing.

Hmm… so dress-down Fridays do work, do they?

Apparently so. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase the Naked Corporation, huh?

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