💬 Issue #44 - Only Connect
Share those photos of your pug in a pirate costume!
This week at EiT headquarters, we’re considering work friendships: why they matter, how to encourage them, and who benefits from them. (Spoiler: If your work connection is only possible in person, you’re missing out on a major slice of the workforce.) Do you have a work bestie? Forward them this newsletter!
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
Valentina Thörner invites us to think more deeply about office conversations that don’t involve work. Where are those conversations happening? With whom and why? “For a multi-location (and often multicultural) company,” Thörner writes, “delegating social conversations to in-person locations creates a tangible risk of siloing knowledge.” Don’t make the mistake of assuming these conversations take care of themselves after hours at Chotchkie’s. Think instead about designing them intentionally.
Another takeaway: avoid the simple compare-and-contrast of virtual and in-person communication. It might matter less what modality your colleagues are speaking in than with whom they’re actually talking. Are new folks invited in or do they need to be in the right place at the right time? “If all of [your] conversations happen behind closed doors (in DMs or private channels), with people you met at some point in person, or with people who were introduced to you by someone else – you’ve created an onboarding risk.” If you’re recreating the very worst dynamics of a middle school lunchroom, it’s time to proactively foster new conversations and community.
MOTHER MAY I
Given that only a quarter of private industry employees have access to paid family leave, and roughly half of Americans live in a “child care desert,” has hybrid/remote work offered more flex and less stigma for workers with caregiving responsibilities? Or is remote just the Mommy Track for a new generation? Legal scholar Joan C. Williams theorized in 1989 that women were nudged out of the workplace because jobs were designed for men married to unpaid homemakers. These men could be available to their jobs at all hours any day of the week and wow, did their employers love that.
Today’s remote workplaces allow many women to keep their jobs while juggling … everything else. What this means for women’s career trajectories lies in whether execs judge remote work as evidence of less hustle and commitment. If they do, in-person workers will continue to gain more rewards (praise, opportunity, and advancement) -- and those in-person workers are, you guessed it, that same “ideal worker” who doesn’t need the flexibility a working mother might. Williams is encouraged by the trend toward remote work (for all workers), but worries now that “hybrid workplaces will make it easier for women to remain in the labor force but harder for women to advance.” Two steps forward, one step back?
ARE YOU THERE, TODD? IT’S ME, MARGARET, YOUR ERG COMMUNITY MANAGER
Reworked asks whether we’re losing the slopes for the skis when we think about RTO solely in terms of productivity. A 2021 report documented that most folks burn out at work not because their jobs are too strenuous but for want of connection with their co-workers and support and engagement from their managers.
One clear boost to employee connections are effectively run Employee Resource Groups (ERGs); so why don’t people like remote-friendly Employee Social Networks, meant to encourage virtual conversation and connection? Sorry to say, but “it became apparent that the network — once full of the pleasures (?) of cat pictures and comments about cat pictures — was now almost exclusively the domain of senior leaders.” Employees clam up if the ESN is really just the podium from which a CEO scolds and pontificates.
Keeping ESNs focused on employee conversations is one way to encourage work pal-ships -- and yes, pets are a great subject with which to kick things off -- but the real organizational boost will come from “aligning communities with topics that matter to your organization: problems, opportunities, needs.” Likewise, the employee manual should be a living, flexible document that serves to welcome, educate, and engage team members; your onboarding should similarly focus on the human rather than their day one tasks. If new hires connect to their coworkers, know who to reach out to -- whether it’s to share book recs or sports fandom, or to sort out the bugsnag -- they’ll be happier and less likely to burn out. Not to mention, it’ll make them ready to extend their hand to the next new hire as well.
ELSEWHERE ON THE INTERNETS
YESTERYEAR TECH OF THE WEEK
From the venerable “Computer Chronicles” … Laptops! (1989)
See ya in two weeks (we’ll be too busy eating to type next week),
– The EiT crew at Status Hero