Like A Shadow
Niels Pflaeging | Factoids | Elsewhere | Pushing Back on Back To The Office
Quote of the Moment
Culture is like a shadow. You cannot change it, but it changes all the time. Culture is read-only.
| Niels Pflaeging
Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.
83% of workers feel a hybrid model is optimal and 68% of high-growth organizations have enabled productivity anywhere workforce models.
Survey data suggests by April 2023 almost 80% of California firms see themselves as in the new normal. This means current levels of commuting, office use, city center retail, weekday leisure and other activities impacted by #WFH are likely to be permanent. | Nick Bloom, Twitter
The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing email and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.
A gasoline-powered car uses only about 30% of the energy in its fuel to move its wheels, with most of the rest wasted as heat. An electric car uses about 80% of its energy.
I’ve been writing quite a lot at Sunsama:
Microsoft’s Why Managers and Employees Can’t Agree on How Much Work Is Getting Done, includes this key takeaway on outcomes, not output:
The antidote to productivity paranoia: judging performance based on the quality of the outcomes and the impact of the work—not by how many emails were sent and how early in the morning they started.
Drawing on surveys of 2,000 knowledge workers in the U.S. and U.K., the two companies' [Qatalog and GitLab] new "Killing Time at Work" report finds that online workers are behaving too much like cubicle warriors of decades past. In practice, that looks like remote workers joining Zoom meetings they know will be worthless, responding to emails at strategically selected hours, or other forms of being ostentatiously online to convince colleagues they're working long and hard enough. This kind of digital presenteeism eats up a full 67 minutes of the average remote worker's day, the research found. That’s a lot of time wasted on productivity theater. | Jessica Stillman
Pushing Back on Back To The Office
I read a (quite long) piece called You Call This ‘Flexible Work’? by Fred Turner, a cultural historian, which provides a good retrospective on the rise of industrial time, and how it has shaped our culture generally, and specifically how it has forged contemporary ideas of work.
In the end, he describes the power imbalance between employers and employees and how it is amplified by the pervasiveness of industrial time now administered by computers instead of a foreman with a watch in his vest pocket [emphasis mine]:
Computers aren’t going anywhere. As they spread the clock-time logic of the factory to places formerly beyond its reach, digital technologies clearly amplify the power of employers, but they also make it possible for many of us to labor and rest in the same rooms, at home, among our friends and relatives, and so reintegrate parts of our lives split apart by the Industrial Revolution. The question is: How can we structure time in ways that balance employers’ desires for control and workers’ desires for autonomy? And how can we do it in ways that benefit everyone?
When workers fought for the eight-hour day, they weren’t just seeking to work less. They wanted to create conditions under which families had time to be together, citizens had time to rally and vote and everyone had time to read, write and flourish. When workers took their watches into the factory, they were seeking to ensure the fair measurement of labor and equal pay for equal work. At bottom, industrial-era fights over how to structure the day and the week were fights over how to give workers more control over their lives and more resources with which to care for one another.
Today workers have to pursue those goals on new technological terms. Cellphones and laptops have made it impossible for many people to wall off eight hours of the day for paid labor and another eight for everything else, and they threaten to return all of us to an era of nonstop, undercompensated labor. But if workers can seize this new flexibility and turn it to their advantage, as 20th-century workers seized the time-clock logic of the factory, it might just transform all of our lives. It could help us tend to our friends, our children, our aging parents. It could make it more convenient, if not necessarily easier, to slip back and forth between our duties to our employers and things we need to do for ourselves and our communities. What we require now is a new set of norms and rules geared to helping all of us enjoy the new flexibility’s benefits.
We can start by acknowledging that in a world where many people can work where they like, we will need to measure labor in ways that take better account of location. The notion that hours worked should be the foundation of compensation made sense when everyone worked in the same place and could see the same clock. For many today, those conditions no longer apply. The choice of where and when to work has monetary value, as does control of the power to choose. Imagine a world in which service workers can demand higher wages in return for their flexibility. Today we can already see that for those who can do their jobs anywhere, having to report to an office may constitute an extra financial burden and so require extra compensation. Those who work from their apartments or cars already incur expenses once borne by employers. As more people work outside the office, they should be compensated for those costs, as well as for the tasks they perform.
How about if we pass laws — or make union demands — so that employers must pay people for the time and expenses of commuting and pay carbon taxes to the government on the massive pollution that commuting creates? Even riding the train to work incurs some costs, and driving a gas-guzzling car alone to work is the worst of all.
Perhaps a full accounting of all the costs would slow the eagerness of employers to demand people return to the office.
And, even if employees work from home, employers should pay for the increased costs there, too.
President Biden didn’t slip that into his recent barrage of bills, and it’s openly antagonistic toward business, so he likely wouldn’t take this on.
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