21.May.2021

It's beginning to and back again

We had a party at work this week, celebrating the milestone “work-a-versaries” of two of my colleagues. One just cleared a decade, and the other an impressive 35 years. By any standard, it was a normal office party, right down to the veggie trays that only sorta get touched. People came & went, bad jokes were made, and anecdotes shared. Again, totally normal.

And about halfway through, it hit me just how novel this flash of normalcy was. I couldn’t remember the last time I had shared the table with more than 1 other person. Scrambling to find chairs became a thing—after 14 months, no one could quite remember where they had been taken to.

It’s here I should note that even with a full house, precautions were taken—a majority of us are fully vaccinated, the food was single-serve, and our spaces at the tables are still divided off with Plexiglass. You essentially eat in a weird glass cubicle.

We were, of course, gathered for a worthy cause, but the side effects—the joy of actually interacting & sharing a meal with people you share your life with— were clearly the best part.

Except for maybe the cake. It was delicious.


On to the good stuff:

Speaking of work, as the world slowly returns to the workplace, there’s been no lack of clumsy takes from the C-Suite. I touched on that last week, but if the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that workers now have a much clearer idea of what they will/will not tolerate in the workplace, and how much it will cost companies to get them to do so. Over the last 30-40 years, productivity has skyrocketed, while increases in wages haven’t even come close to keeping pace.

The pro-business narrative is that government money is keeping people home, the underlying accusation being that workers are lazy. The reality is that COVID has allowed us to realign the way we work & live, and laid bare the fallacy of fealty to big business.

It’s taken a global pandemic to stop a generation’s worth of conditioning, but from where I sit, it’s not about any kind of sloth. Rather, workers have finally started to value their labor, and are redefining what euphemisms like “competitive wages” actually mean.

Cal Newport weighs in on how WFH, productivity, and the “hive mind” don’t always play well together.

“It’s become common to hear business leaders claim that the lesson of the pandemic is that telecommuting can be just as productive as working in an office. But we have to be careful about terminology. When they say “just as productive,” what they often really mean, as found in the Chicago study, is that the workers were still able get their work done when at home.

What this observation misses, as also found in the study, is that getting this same work done now requires more total hours. That’s a decrease in productivity. And because these efforts now necessitate more work in the morning or evenings, they’re likely creating more worker dissatisfaction and burnout.”

Basecamp’s Jason Fried on whether or not workers being “present” matters.


In The Air:


In Your Ears:

Meanwhile:


Two For the Road:

Thanks for being here,

Kevin—

What caught your attention this week? Got a rant or rave? Let me know in the comments or send me an email. I read all the responses. You can also read more of my work on Medium, or connect with me on Twitter.