Has the world of work really become better?

I have often been accused of being an optimist – and I am proud of wearing that tag. However, let me give a fair warning that this post is not so ‘optimistic’. Due to the way all the internet corporations work, my feed on Linkedin mostly has been flooded with paintings of a big, beautiful world at work waiting for us when we return from the lockdowns. There are claims that things have drastically changed and everyone is going to feel empowered, energetic and generally happy when they ‘return’ to work because businesses are waking up to a new reality.

Even outside of work, world is awash with posts of how we are now going to respect nature and lesser priviledged individuals because our eyes have suddenly opened up to their plight.

I am grateful and thankful that all these eyes and ears are opening up and some thinkers are pushing for beautiful futures. In the business world, many talk about increase of genuiness or authenticity, outcomes orientation, transparency and reduced gulf between boss and team. Reality somehow seems different. Here are some of the concerns I have heard over last few weeks especially:

Org perspectives:

Organisations need to urgently get businesses going and this means support from their team members, some of whom seem wrapped up in their own plight. One example – I vacated my rental space because I was working from home. Now suddenly I can’t return. Really?

Individual perspectives:

Everyone is saying WFH means more saving of time and better work-life balance. I have heard at least 12 individuals in last 5 days (across organisations – size, industry, hierarchy) claim they are having a pathetic time – lunch at 4 pm, not able to get away from the screen even at 10 pm, calls at any time. No schedule, no respite. On top of it there are some ‘managers’ who ask questions like , “You have saved commute time and dressing up work time; what have you done with it?”

A relative commented that due to the economic pressure, everyone is afraid of losing their jobs and therefore trying to overdo their work and give more pressure to their teams.

There are many more examples. I have just quoted a few.

I cannot understand how the world is becoming better if work is still a drudgery and people are feeling helpless. I was really hopeful in the initial weeks of us being able to find our inner balances and work out a reasonable support to one another. While, some of us, who are more experienced and have some say on our schedules maybe able to figure out the best way to keep this minimum, a vast majority have no such opportunity. It’s very nice to say that people should learn to say “no” but I fear we may not be helping them by saying “yes” to everything.

At this point, I just feel that I need to hold this mirror up, to everyone who is at least on my limited network, for them to check whether they are behaving in such an incredulous manner? At a time when our empathy and creativity needs to have sky-rocketed, we seem to be pushing fear and draconian methods of managing people instead of leading them?

Please ask yourself – Have I stopped the buck of pressure and fear from passing? Am I creating better spaces around me?

I do not like to end the post without offering some solutions:

Ask “How are you feeling?” with more feeling and less formality.

Empathise and explain the expectations

Don’t micromanage. I realise this is especially tough for those who have high ownership and feel responsibility but honestly 90% of people don’t want to slack off either. Clarity around expectations is paramount and feedback on the result and not the person is also important.

Make clear requests for breaks between work to be respected.

5.Don’t overuse chat, call conferencing facilities. As was written in one article I read, allow for asynchronous communication – it is not necessary that everyone must attend a meeting which could have been easily communicated over an email.

Resort to lesser meetings – fix a day where there will be no meetings unless absolute emergency. Emergency definition – Customer’s revenue or sales impacted immediately.

Am sure there are more ways, and I would love to hear from you about them