The photo above has been hard to miss. It has gleefully appeared in newspapers all over the world over the last few weeks. It purports to show what we will all (or maybe that is just women?) will look like if we continue to work from home. That the image is misognistic and ageist doesn’t seem to have stopped it being widely published. It is the sort of thing that completely wrecks my head.
The fact that it is no way seems to tally with people’s actual experience of remote working doesn’t seem to have stopped anyone. The reality is that most people who have been working from home since the pandemic are feeling better than they ever did when they were working in an office 5 days a week. Freed from the daily commute people are finding time to fit more exercise in, walk the dog and just be with their kids. The Irish Times published a lovely piece to commemorate Father Day which talked about how much these men were enjoying not commuting and being able to spend time at home with the kids instead.
The squeeze is on to get people back into the offices. The trouble is not everyone is in a mad rush to get back. At first it was trying to entice people in with free food, that only kind of worked.. as someone I know said “why would I do a 90-minute round trip for some free scones? Sure I could have baked my own and walked the dog in that time, never mind the cost of petrol.”
This isn’t an anti office diatribe. We have all been figuring things out post covid. Offices can be great sources of collaboration and productivity. There is 100% an energy from coming together that is hard to replicate online.
As part of that figuring out piece some things have gone well;
Anchor days have worked well. No one wants to go into an office to only find a handful of people there. Anchor days guaranteed you were going to meet people and there was going to be a buzz about the place.
Obviously, I am biased but training seems to have worked well too. We have been brought in to deliver in person training and people have felt the benefit of that. Think it is coming together to learn something new and all the endorphins that come from that.
There was a hope there for a while that we could take the best of what we learned in lockdown (work is not tied to a place) and forge a new world of work, one which was more inclusive.
Now however there appears to be more a stick then carrot approach. Ironically much of this is being driven by tech companies. Surely one of the most innovative and cutting-edge thing you can do is completely rethink your working patterns? But that does not seem to be so popular. The irony of big tech companies driving a D& I agenda but not supporting changes which actually make the workforce more inclusive is not lost on me.
I think there are a number of factors driving this..
- If you have invested in a really nice, big shiny office on prime real estate then you really don’t want to have to turn around and admit you made a mistake or got the timing wrong.
- It is hard to manage people remotely or in a hybrid environment. I get this, it is hard. It is a different management style completely and what worked well for someone in an office rarely translates to remote working or hybrid working management. A lot of policies and practices have to be rethought and reimagined. One of our most popular courses recently has been “How to Manage a Hybrid Workforce Inclusively” but not everyone wants to invest the time. Some people just want to go back to the way things were. Why? This bring us to the last item..
- Trust. Trust is a biggie. It is a hugely emotional, not entirely rational but fundamental foundation for any kind of relationship. Without trust there is nothing. I am not a psychologist but to me trust seems like something fundamental to ones psyche, you are either a trusting person and believe the best in people or you do not. The larger the organisation maybe the harder it is to trust everyone in it?
It is frustrating that organisations which purport to champion diversity and inclusion and to be incredibly innovative can’t seem to manage the leap into a new world of work but are instead clinging to the past. I always loved this quote from Gaby Hinsliff, author of “Half a Wife” and thought I would share it here:
“The belief that bums on seats equals profitability is as hopelessly ill-adapted to computerised, knowledge-based industries as horses were to warfare in the age of the tank.”
A carrot can only be effective for so long. The demand for talent remains strong (we have some open roles here). The best people will move, as they always do. Sometimes just because something is hard (like managing a hybrid/ remote workforce) it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. Sometimes the hard stuff is worthwhile and you reap the benefits for years to come. None of this is new, like the old fable about the North Wind and the Sun, persuasion over force always wins.
Thats all for this week, shout out to all those parents who are managing kids being off school and busy working lives. This newsletter was brought to you from a quiet desk at 5 in the morning.
Am off to get some coffee, till next time,
And Just like that, Season 2 of the Sex and the City reboot. And it is just kind of disapointing. The truth is Sharon Horgan and Aisling Bea have ruined us when it comes to hilariously funny and insightful female led TV shows. They are devastatingly funny and real in a way which AJLT has not managed to be. When it comes to stealth wealth then White Lotus does it so much better, the conspicuous consumption in AJLT feels out of touch in a way that is no longer enjoyable even in a living vicariously kind of way. For a real dose of New York humour you should head over here and meet Denise the receptionist in Heaven. Clever, witty and sometimes it makes you well up a bit, it is everything AJLT has not managed to be.
Yellowface by R.F. Kang, it was described to me as car crash reading and it is kind of like that. Very interesting insights into the publishing industry so enjoyed that part the most. Am also trying to gather up books for my upcoming holidays. So far I have Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (I know I am very late to this party), Poor by the amazing Katriona O’Sullivan, Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent & finally Kala by Colin Walsh. Would love some more recommendations if anyone had some?