💬 Issue #33 - Here, There And Everywhere
We’re at the office, we’re at the house, we’re at the combination office and house
Hey hey, it’s the Friday before Labor Day! You can lead a worker to the office, but you can’t make her drink from the water cooler; enough is enough for the “ideal worker”; and office bullies, beware.
DANCE ME TO THE END OF 9-TO-5
Some orgs are compelling their employees to return to the office, but regardless of the rules, the lines between work and the rest of life are much less rigid. In the post-pandemic present, workers now tango in and out of their responsibilities across the day, dipping between caretaking, professional tasks, and everything in between.
“‘There is a gigantic dance going on. Companies want people back in the office, and employees are saying, ‘Okay, let me find the right balance,’’” said Patricia Mokhtarian, a professor who studies remote work at Georgia Institute of Technology.”
In our brave new world, this shift affects commute times (as peak hours extend and congestion reduces), happy hours (which start earlier, cheers!), golf courses (Wednesday morning on the green has never been hotter … and more crowded), and even grocery shopping (online, all the time).
The good news? There has been no measurable loss in worker productivity: work can happen everywhere, at any time. Is it balance, is it frenzy? Either way it’s the way we work. Vamos a bailar!
GOOD ENOUGH IS GOOD ENOUGH
Can we get to enough already? The pandemic brought us quiet quitting and the lazy girl job, and maybe (despite the annoying names) that’s a good thing. Unless you work in a Manhattan law firm (my condolences), gone are the days of office work as forced march – a one-size-fits-all set of expectations for employees that Joan Williams, the chair and director of the Center for WorkLife Law, calls the norm of the ideal worker. As recounted by Jessica Grose in The New York Times, this is “a set of beliefs that assumes labor will be performed by full-time employees with no caregiving responsibilities or life outside work, continuously, for 40 years.” When workers glimpse that future in their crystal balls, they lace up their Hokas and start running for the hills.
But if the metaphor for office work is no longer life as a grunt, what takes its place? The office will never be a spa or arcade (no matter the perks at Google and Meta), but that doesn’t mean it can’t be sane.
A recent project in Great Britain asked 61 companies to pilot a four-day workweek, and the experiment worked like a Toyota fresh off the factory floor. A full 92% of participating orgs said they planned to continue the four-day week after the end of the study. Rather than lose productivity, the shorter week seemed actually to boost it and even led to reduced rates of attrition.
Grose gives the bottom line: “If, as a manager, you’re constantly requiring people to work overtime or out of the scope of their job description, it’s a sure sign that your company is not well structured.” Swap your persona: lose the drill sergeant and become a better neighbor. If you assume that your colleagues are both competent and have a lot going on, you can get back to work on your own turf.
DEFANG SIMON BAR SINISTER
Rigorous and open conversation helps to make an organization soar. But we’ve all seen debate crash and burn in the hands of an overzealous – or even bullying – colleague. These are the folks who see conversation as high school debate and they’re gunning for the trophy.
If you’re facing a contrarian who is spoiling for a fight, or who hasn’t learned how to disagree without wielding a rhetorical mallet (or Thor’s hammer), you have options to defuse the tension and move forward.
First off, slow things waaaaaay down. Reset the room’s energy with a pause and summarize your combative colleague’s ideas so they know that you heard and understand their argument. Sometimes people ratchet up the rhetoric if they think no one gets their point -- simply repeating it back lets them know you’re listening (tbh this also works with disgruntled toddlers).
Second, change the venue. Give everyone a break – yourself, your coworkers on the sidelines of this fight, and your aggro coworker. You can agree to pause discussion with the promise of picking it back up, 1-to-1 if appropriate, at another time.
And finally, don’t cede your power. While it’s nice to think that more sensitive listening might heal all ills, be aware that real power dynamics are at play. Don’t be timid about stepping in to support those with less standing. After all, where there’s a bully, there’s an opportunity to champion the underdog.
ELSEWHERE ON THE INTERNETS
YESTERYEAR TECH OF THE WEEK
Modern work, 1979-style (🔈 up)
See ya next week,
– The EiT crew at Status Hero