This is the most detailed and comprehensive article on the subject, from The New Yorker - the subject I've long wanted to tackle. And finally pushed me to put pixels to pretend paper.
By way of update, this just in on 2.10.21 from The Verge, "Salesforce will also give employees more freedom to choose what their daily schedules look like. The company joins other tech firms like Facebook and Microsoft that have announced permanent work-from-home policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic."
Working from Home. #WFH. Telecommuting. Working Remotely.
These words have been a part of my vernacular for over 20 years. When my progressive Chicago company literally said to me - "Moving to Florida?, just fly up here every few weeks!".
I was literally gobsmacked. This. Was the Holy Grail.
So, 20 years later. This is not a new or mind-blowing concept. So, why did it take a literal pandemic to bring it into the "new norm" or new "abnorm" as some are wont to say?
"Twenty-seven per cent of the American workforce will be remote in 2021, according to a recent survey by Upwork, a freelancing marketplace."
I will first state, raised by a dedicated and workaholic father and a mother who still believes working is a character defect (there's a novel/memoir in there, so more later), the whole lauded "Work/Life balance" thing was never part of the equation. Work is Life. Life is Work.
But that's okay. Because to me, and half of my upbringing, it was just logic. Work is what you do, is what you love, is fulfilling, is joy. Since I was a teenager, my philosphy has been "Love what you do, do what you love." If you are going to spend your life doing something, anything, you should embrace it. It should be a natural extension of yourself. When I played? I pretended I was working at a Blue Chip company. My stuffed bunnies had almost unionized.
May seem trite, but for me, at least, it's true. Life - as much as possible, should be joyful. If you have a passion or are really good at something and can find yourself a profession within that passion - embrace it. And that's still "work".
Well, that's easy when it's Advertising. What's not to love?
So it never occurred to me, and still doesn't, that "working" 80 hour weeks in Denver and Chicago in the early oughts was actually, "work." And I was able to do that because at that time, I worked for businesses that understood, if you are travelling 50% of the time, you have to be able to live, and the work is not only getting done, but to an exceptional level. So when companies embrace and help their employees thrive - Work Happens.
Hot Desking. Espresso bars. Real bars. Yoga Class. Purse Parties. Blues Brothers. Cubs Games. Stanley Cup. These are the Perks.
Because, and again, this is just my personal experience and my opinion - there's no on/off switch or separation from any of my roles - Mother, Sister, Daughter, Wife, Employer/Employee, Tourist, American, Friend, Cook, Traveler, Photographer, Reader, Writer, Pretend Painter, etc. Those traits are there, always. So why would Worker be treated differently?
Obviously, there is a time and place for each "role", but my experience is they don't vanish neatly when the sun rises or sets. Like a werewolf or vampire (and that would be so cool). So, I find it no surprise when I see - so very, very often these days - remarks like this ....
“'We have seen productivity go through the roof,” ... So why did the staff require so much expensive office space? Did they need any at all?"
Well, of course. Maybe this is obvious to me, a working mother. But here's the thing - what did we think would happen to driven, dedicated people who love what they do when you take all of their stressors away?
The most anxiety I've personally ever felt at work - again, not heart surgery, but advertising - is the anxiety of picking up my child from school on time or even worse, heading into the no-man's land of the dreaded afternoon doctor's appointment. Forget the appointment for me, personally. Because there were a few employers (not many, but a few), where it was best to just not go. At these workplaces, I couldn't stand the idea of "bosses" and competitive co-workers wondering where I was, why I wasn't at my desk or why I thought I was so "special". I know this is true, because whenever a fellow hapless employee would dare leave the office - or leave their desk for lunch - they would be at the mercy of the "there" employees. In some of these less progressive companies, this - not passion or skill or drive or curiosity - was the route to success.
I just think "there" is a state of mind.
As I write this - and I would say, "I'm working", it is 4:35am. I finally have time - time I want and need and love, to work a bit. It's quiet and the puppy stopped playing at 2:22am. But that's the thing, if you can work from home, or Prague, or Alaska or the Florida Keys or a hotel room in Times Square or Las Vegas, and you want to - you should.
"Six months in, the final round of surveys showed that employees—driven by adrenaline and anxiety about underperforming, and because there wasn’t much else to do while sheltering in place—were working all the time."
"Working all the time." Yes. That's a danger. But, for some, it's natural and productive. There will be times in the lives of employees - and if an employer is lucky, they will have their loyal employees through many stages of their lives - when they work 80 hour weeks. There will be times when they have crises. I had a brilliant boss say one time, upon our blessed, yearly 2 weeks off (company closed!) at the Christmas and New Year holidays, "I don't want to understand the head of a company who doesn't want his team to be with their families during the holidays." THANK YOU!
I would implore all employers to please meet your employees where they are. If they just had a baby or a hurricane or a prognosis or a family/childcare issue - give them peace. Give them time. Give them a DAY.
They will be more productive than ever because they want to be and because you let them. Loyalty and productivity are interrelated. When an employer is giving, understanding and appreciative - people will exceed their own expectations to actually "thank" that employer. They will THRIVE.
But, then, this is actually why I started my own business. I knew I could do So. Very. Much. More.
When unfettered by the stressors and constraints of less progressive workplaces that demanded me there at 8am and kept me until long, long after 5pm. I had zero issues with working 12-15 hours a day - but during very specific times - with a family? Being the last mom at pickup for aftercare? I still get a pit in my stomach. When I was single, I regularly woke at 3:15am to workout and be on a plane by 6am and work until midnight. Or later.
One of the best times of my life was when I worked at a fabulous museum and because they have a fantastic all-day summer camp, my son and I commuted together every single day. It was the working mother nirvana. And, after camp, he was a great intern!
I recognize there are a zillion different philosphies about work. But, and I feel very fortunate to have worked for AMAZING companies and employers and CEOS, etc., I feel for me I can fairly say, this is the least stressed I have ever been. Is it because I am a working woman or a working mom? Would I have been less stressed if those things were not a factor? Well, if I were a boy I would've been named "Montague" apparently, so I'm not sure.
But what I will say is, I work when there is work. And when there's ideas that need work for the future. No email goes unread or unfiled. This is really true. Because literal OCD. No client question unanswered. No deliverable unmet.
Thanks to technology, vacations are even better - usually five to ten quick emails and the rest of the day is bliss. And the ability to be proactive? Gosh. It's like Pandora's box! I do Zoom and Google Meet calls while cooking lunch for my son (also doing school virtually) and husband! My dog is in every meeting. I can be on more non-profit boards. I am always available or within minutes for my wonderful clients. I work when they work. And I work when I work.
The stress is gone. I can take care of my family, be more productive and serve more clients - better than ever before.
This is not "work", it's just my life, it's what I do. It's me. I'm working but I'm home. Where I've always been.
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