Work Regular Hours
Jane Kenyon | Cadence | Factoids | Elsewhere
Quote of the Moment
Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.
| Jane Kenyon, Everything I Know About Writing Poetry
Good advice for anyone whose work is deep and creative. But most people will not follow this advice, even when they feel something is missing in their lives. They seldom realize that what is missing is spending time alone with your own thoughts.
The experience of writing deeply researched, single-topic posts — ‘essays’ — over at Sunsama has led me to plan a shift here at Work Futures. I will be moving to a schedule of a public ‘survey’ post one week, like this one, and a semi-public essay the next week. (Semi-public means that the first section of the post will be available for all subscribers, but the remainder will be for paid subscribers only.) I will also feature a public monthly recap at the end of each month.
So, five posts a month, starting in June.
The next essay will be on The Many Lies of Meritocracy.
A survey of 819 employees working across geographies and industries led to this finding: ‘Results showed, to our surprise, that respondents experienced working from a third space like a coworking site as more socially fulfilling than working from the office (64%) or from home (67%).’ And why? One big reason is 52% of respondents wanted to avoid ‘unnecessary interactions with colleagues’. They wanted social interaction — hence the coworking — but not with the overlay of office politics: they want a ‘respite from the competitive and evaluative pressures of the office’.
I get it.
That’s only for one year. So the idiots that continue to rant about government overreach during the pandemic should try to contemplate the more than 20 million people saved by vaccination.
In 2019 the average one-way commute in the United States hit a record of almost 28 minutes, according to the Census Bureau. Nearly 40 percent of Americans commuted a half-hour or more, one way, and almost 10 percent traveled for more than an hour one way. […] Liberty Street Economics, a blog that features writing from New York Fed analysts, reported last year that collectively, Americans now spend 60 million fewer hours per day traveling to work. That’s 60 million hours for which they weren’t being compensated. | Farhad Manjoo
In 2008, John Tozzi of Bloomberg wrote about the ‘twitpitch’, I term I came up with prior to the Web 2.0 conference that year:
Forget the elevator pitch. Forget the press release. Forget the PowerPoint deck. If you were making a "Twitpitch" about your business, it would be over by now.
A what? A Twitpitch forces you to tell your company's story in 140 characters (about 20 words), the maximum length of a message on Twitter, a microblogging platform that is gaining popularity (BusinessWeek.com, 5/15/08). Social media pioneer Stowe Boyd experimented with the idea and coined the term on his blog last month when, overwhelmed by e-mails, he decided to take appointments at the Web 2.0 Expo only via Twitter.
Boyd's experiment offers a lesson for small companies that want the attention of potential investors, clients, and press: Get to the point. And it applies in almost any business setting, not just on Twitter. It's no secret that less is more in the age of information overload, no matter how you're trying to reach people. That's why Boyd also calls it the escalator pitch. "It's something you can say in 10 seconds while he's going up the escalator and you're going down the escalator," he says.
That article also mentions ‘Micro PR’.
As one aspect of the diaspora of knowledge work from the cities to the ‘burbs, and the hollowing out of urban centers from white flight and other factors, suburban office parks represent the high-water mark of what Louise Mozingo called Pastoral Capitalism, and she also pointed out the astounding fact that ‘by the end of the twentieth century, America's suburbs contained more office space than its central cities’.
In the past thirty years, the pendulum swung back, as companies and their workers were eager for a more urban experience, and suburban office parks and their acoustic tile ceilings, beige carpets, and enormous parking lots seemed very, very 1980s.
The transition to distributed work — where a growing slice of knowledge workers are working from home — may spell the end of this late 20th-century trend.
Allstate recently bought an office building in downtown Chicago, although for what it hasn’t announced yet. The company no longer needs the suburban headquarters it has had for 55 years, it said in a statement, because 75 percent of its employees now work remotely, and 24 percent split their time between remote and in-person work. At a company where most workers went into the office daily for decades, today 1 percent do.
It is unlikely that we will be returning to suburban office parks as a place to work, in the future. There’s no there, there, as Gertrude Stein said of Oakland. There’s nowhere to get a real lunch, join a happy hour, or mail a package.
The details still are relevant for anyone interested in the history of the American workplace, which I am sure you are.
I’ve made that issue public for all, but it represents one of the benefits of a paid subscription: there is a great deal of deep analysis and research sitting in the Work Futures archives, generally available only to paid subscribers.
Over at Sunsama, check out Unteaming: Is teamwork really the key to success, or is it merely a 'management placebo'?
J. Richard Hackman, the noted researcher and author of Leading Teams, pointed out this critical insight: Teams are expensive.
Research consistently shows that teams underperform, despite all the extra resources they have. That’s because problems with coordination and motivation typically chip away at the benefits of collaboration.
Teams have become the default approach to how work is done, because 'when they work they really work', as Diane Coutu pointed out. But creating great teams is a lot of work, and even when everything we know about teams is done, a team might not come together.
What are the costs of building a team? Teams must be well-defined by the team leader, so it is clear who is on the team and who is not, and what the team's agenda is. Teams are a social construct and therefore need clear rules of conduct. Teams require access to systems of communication and coordination and are enmeshed in company-wide systems like HR. Finally, great teams require coaching, generally involving people outside the group. Not all team leaders -- or members generally -- can coach individuals or teams to great performance.
But even when all of these elements are present, things can still fall apart, so each team is a gamble and can lead to an expensive failure.
In the post, I offer well-research alternatives to conventional teams, specifically unteams.