Elizabeth Spiers On 'Work Is Too Casual'
Everything bad is our own fault.
There is something deeply unsettling about Elizabeth Spiers's recent What We Lose When Work Gets Too Casual. There is a certain graceless framing of the issue of spending a lot less time in the office as being the ‘loss of workplace formalities’, even when she is nodding her head at newfound autonomy. After a short personal preamble — 6-year-old child, small apartment, happy to avoid high heels and business wear — she turns to her real thread:
There are trade-offs, though. The loss of workplace formalities like fixed start and stop times, managerial hierarchies with clear pathways for advancement and professional norms that create boundaries between personal and professionally acceptable behavior only hurt workers. Though the pandemic-era transformation of white-collar work seems empowering at first, we should not be deceived: Many of these changes mostly benefit employers.
On the surface, for example, remote work appears to give workers more freedom to do their work wherever and whenever they choose. But even though employees may feel more productive when they work from home, we may just be working more, not more efficiently. A 2020 Harvard Business School study of digital communications across almost 21,500 companies found that the average workday increased by 8.2 percent during the early weeks of pandemic lockdowns.
Yes, some people may be working more, but many people were working too much in the beforetimes plus commuting everyday. Being able to pick the time to do work is a great tradeoff for many, so the ‘fixed start and stop times’ is a red herring. She downplays choice, and never mentions the particular benefits to working parents (particularly working moms) from flexing.
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