People are being asked to do more with less.
In the ad agency industry, this has been going on since the first days of Digital Disruption. Today, with COVID-19 raging
across the land and the globe, so-called “thought workers” who can work from home are doing so, but at what cost to themselves and the economy at large?
While it is true that some people excel in a home office and everyone saves on commute time, not all people, nor all teams are meant to work remotely.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development:
In the longer-term, productivity performance could improve to the extent that the crisis catalyses wider and smarter adoption of efficient telework practices, raising worker well-being and efficiency and lowering firms’ costs. This could speed up the transition into a “new normal”, which would have been more gradual in the absence of the crisis, given uncertainties and costs around the necessary organisational and management changes and other hurdles – cultural reluctance or legal constraints.
Emerging evidence provides support for this notion: 61.9% of hiring managers interviewed in a recent US poll stated their intention to rely more on remote work in the future. However, against these positive longer-term productivity effects stand potentially adverse effects arising from increased spatial distance among employees, e.g. impaired communication resulting in lower innovation or the fusing of work and personal, family and social life leading to hidden overtime.
“Hidden overtime” is a nice way of saying that with no division between work and home or work and play, We, the People are fast becoming automatons.
The process was well underway prior to the pandemic. Now, it’s worse.
Last week, I wrote that Accountable is the “A” word of the moment. It’s now time to add the “P” word into the mix.
Let’s turn to an expert on the topic of productivity for her outlook. Laurie Penny is a journalist, a TV writer, and the author, most recently, of Bitch Doctrine. She weighs in on the problem, care of Wired.
Frantic productivity is a fear response. It’s a fear response for 21st-century humans in general and millennial humans in particular, as we’ve collectively awoken from the American dream with a strange headache and stacks of bills to pay. My whole generation learned relentless work was the way to cope with the rolling crisis, with the mood of imminent collapse and economic insecurity that was the elevator music of our entire youth—the relentless tension between trying to save yourself and trying to save the world, between desperate aspiration and actual hope.
Right through the white-knuckle ride of my twenties and beyond, I clung to work as a way of protecting myself when I was scared, when I was hurt, when the future seemed to collapse on itself like a stack of marked cards. No matter how many marches I go to, there is some part of me that believes that if I can only self-optimize a bit harder then the world will right itself, no one I love will suffer, and death will have no dominion. So when the coronavirus crisis began, I started writing myself ambitious to-do lists on giant sticky notes—because when every cultural certainty starts collapsing in my hands like wet cake, writing ambitious to-do lists is how I calm down.
Her words are hard to read. She reminds us that people are suffering from the degradation of not enough work or its inverse—too much work. Not just Ms. Penny, and not just people in media and marketing. People in all sorts of industries and people from all sorts of backgrounds.
Ms. Penny presents the millennial point-of-view in her sharp essay. No doubt, this economic downturn is doubly hard on millennials who just barely escaped the ravages of the 2008 economic disaster.
As marketers and managers and employers, we must develop a sensitivity to where millennials are coming from today. Overworked and underpaid productivity hounds will burn out, and lose their edge and effectiveness. When this happens, we all lose. Unhappy and unproductive workers are not exactly the best shoppers or most pleasant people. No sustainable work practices, no disposable income, no stoking the economic engines.
The Eternal Question: Where Do the Best Ideas Come From?
Question: Where do great ideas come from?
Answer: They come from the minds, hearts, and souls of people who are experts at connecting disparate dots.
To do deep work that requires the connecting of disparate dots, people must have the room to relax, and the room to let their minds wander.
Ergo, I want to present to you what I consider the ideal office space for a creative worker today.