Acting Into The Unknown
More improvisation, less following the script.
Quote of the Moment
The new, entrepreneurial experience of work is very different from the mass-industrial experience. It is about acting into the unknown, not necessarily working towards a known goal. It is more about improvising together than creating and following a script. It is more about emergence than rational causality. It is more about sciences of complexity than systems thinking.
| Esko Kilpi, The new business cycle embracing uncertainty
Managers and Millennials
In Gen X Is Kind of, Sort of, Not Really the Boss, Pamela Paul examines generational issues, but I pulled two factoids that illuminate serious trends. First, managers are in trouble:
According to Microsoft’s work-trend index, 54 percent of managers say that leadership is out of touch with employee expectations, and 74 percent of managers say that they don’t have the influence or resources they need to drive change for their team. Their employees are either at home or wishing they were at home.
Second, millennials are still on the move:
According to an October 2021 survey, 46 percent of millennials planned to leave their jobs within the year. Who can blame them? Employees say they are working harder and for longer hours than ever.
Work Is Less Like School and More Like College
Bruce Daisley is sensing the shift toward net-work and away from hive-work in Work is becoming less like school and more like college:
In many ways work played a role like school. Yes, while we were toiling to earn enough money to survive, most of us will admit that the laughter we shared with colleagues helped pass the longest, dullest days. None of this is trivial, the biggest predictor of whether we are engaged with our jobs is whether we have a friend at work.
But work is shifting from a school style community to something closer to college. At university most students don’t find their best friends on their course. Sure, they might know people who study the same subject as them, but their BFFs are generally found elsewhere. Work is moving this way, in their most recent workforce survey Gallup found that just 17% of hybrid workers reported having a best friend at work, the lowest level that it’s ever been.
For those who don’t have friends at work, our jobs can be desperately lonely. The poet David Whyte says the power of friendship is to be understood by another person: it is the ‘privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of having been granted the sight of the essence of another’. A working week without feeling understood by colleagues is isolated and never ending.
While work transitioning from a school shaped place in our lives might be healthy - after all it’s not healthy for our occupations to be our dominant identities - a transition to a detached college style relationship could end up leaving us lonely and isolated in the future.
Or finding friendship outside of the office setting, since, increasingly, people won’t be spending as much time there. But the transition for people who had found their friends principally at work may be hard.
In Is It OK to Work on Vacation? Yes, If You Do It Right., Laura Vanderkam sets up a strawman and knocks it down:
Do we need to fully unplug in order to relax? I hope we can begin to understand that, for many, work is a collection of tasks, not a collection of hours in a certain place. And time is a finite resource, but one that cannot always be neatly divided into “work time” and “free time.” Taking time for yourself during the work day doesn’t make you lazy, and working a bit on vacation doesn’t make you a workaholic. Dispensing with strict time boundaries should also mean ditching the guilt you might feel for either.
I agree with the underlying trend: work is a collection of tasks, not a collection of hours. We should all share the incentive of accomplishing the tasks, not watching the hours burn down. Yes, tasks ‘take time’, and likewise, taking a walk ‘takes time’, but they aren’t the same ‘times’. We should resist commoditizing time, and acting if all time is unitary, waiting to be used for work.
We experience time in two ways: quantitative, linear, delimited, chronos time alternating with qualitative, non-linear, flowing, kairos time, and in that blur is where we both live and work.
New Work Futures Pages
I have created new pages for Work Futures information. The About page has been updated, including this description of ‘Who Is Work Futures For?’:
Work Futures readers are researchers, practitioners, and activists in business, academia, and media whose roles focus on the future of work. They are curious, driven, and hyper-engaged with the myriad themes and threads in the field. They are looking for new insights into both well-documented and newly-emerging issues in the space. Many have roles within organizations charged with setting directions for new ways of work, as practitioners and change agents, in people operations and transformation initiatives.
Tell me what you think in the comments. Is that you?
Also, in the email that is sent out to new subscribers I have included this call to action:
I’m glad you have signed up to the Work Futures newsletter, and are joining a community of other readers pursuing similar interests.
If you could make the time, it would be great to learn a bit about you and why you joined this community. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond to any questions or thoughts you might have.
Thanks, and welcome.
To those who signed up in the past — most of you reading this — I invite you to take me up on the same offer, and tell me why you are here. If I get a thousand emails it might take some time to respond, but I will get there, I promise.
Work Futures is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.