Paradise for cubicle-shackled wage slaves or recipe for anarchy? The modern workplace has the potential to be both.
In the latest management trend gaining momentum in Australia, the hierarchical power structure of the office is shaken up.
Staff call the shots about how they work, without a manager hovering over their shoulder monitoring their key performance indicators. They are given the time and space to innovate and ''permission to fail'' - a favoured buzzword - if their ideas don't work out.
Casual Fridays are replaced with feedback Fridays, when the boss happily chats with all the underlings to hear their views.
The new ''power to the worker'' management structure has found a natural home in creative and technology industries, with the Australian television production company Freehand, as well as Google, using aspects of it. It has also been taken up by Southwest Airlines in the United States. Although experts are divided as to its merits, it could be the way of the future for any organisation that wants to survive.
''Organisations understand that they are not going to win with the old command and control style of management,'' said business consultant Peter Fuda, principal of The Alignment Partnership, who has worked with Telstra and MasterCard among other big companies.
''This is a survival technique,'' he added.
The theory goes that workers who feel more empowered are more engaged and thus more productive. But it's not promoting anarchy.
''It's structured empowerment,'' Dr Fuda says. ''It's wrong to think that giving employees more autonomy turns a company into a free-for-all with no structure. The opposite of control does not have to be chaos.''
Macquarie Graduate School of Management's Professor Richard Badham believes the new culture is driven by globalisation, increased competition and the fast pace of business.
''You have to adapt because the world is changing so fast,'' he said. ''You need to be flexible and creative rather than sticking to old ideas because they no longer apply.''
But a caring and sharing management model had the potential to backfire, director of the Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney, John Buchanan, said.
''You hear a lot of managers talking about it but they don't have the capacity to deliver on it,'' Dr Buchanan said. ''So in fact the rhetoric doesn't match the reality for a lot of Australian workers.''
Results from last year's Australia at Work study conducted by the Workplace Research Centre showed one in five did not trust their managers.
The Secretary of Unions NSW, Mark Lennon, said a more collaborative approach between managers and staff had many benefits but companies could use it to exploit workers.
''Our concern about this approach is that where you have a great emphasis on team work and collaboration - whether you are at work or on a break - it's all about the company,'' he said.
''The distinctions between work and not being at work are very blurred.''