Fun and Must, back to work?
Covid allowed working from home on a scale never before seen. For a few people the lack of office contacts was a diminution of their day. The absence of the lunchtime gossip and the chat round the cooler point left them with fewer and less interesting contacts. Those from unhappy homes looked forward to Monday as a release from a boring weekend with their not-so-loved ones. For the majority, WfH (Work from Home) was a blessing they had not anticipated. It allowed them to knit their home demands and their jobs into a quilt of Fun and Must.
Then we learned to live with Covid. By that time employers had enough experience to know that certain types of people were reliable, trustworthy, conscientious and able to read the clock but that others lacked these prerequisites for home working. They also discovered that some jobs need ‘presence’ to be on-call when they are operating. An A&E doctor isn’t much use if he is downing a couple of pints and watching soccer at home. And the reverse, someone able to deal with a tele-con at any time can do so from wherever is convenient.
Finding worker proclivities merging with job requirements rather difficult to master, many employers gave up and insisted on full time attendance at work. Others sought a compromise, allowing certain employees some time for WfH and other time for MbaW (Must be at Work). In certain cases employees were allowed to choose which days they attended and which days they avoided. The most sensible arrangement I heard was the employer who said his staff could work from home for two days a week but NOT Mondays or Fridays. He avoids the ‘extended weekend syndrome’ by doing this.
I have yet to see an employer train people on how to WfH. But then they seldom trained them for WaW (Working at Work) either. Much is down to the culture of the organisation. A place of trust and opportunity, where the incidence of PFR (Petty-Fogging Rules) is minimised, is likely to attract the kind of employees who use their brains to decide how to make the best and most honest use of their time. A rigid PFR set up will attract the kind who is out to cheat, and maybe not only about time. Sadly, many employers have still to learn that if you don’t make work an agreeable part of life for people it won’t be done well. Persuasion today is not a matter of order but of audience.
Time spent commuting to and from the place of work is largely wasted. You need to be sensitive to the most precious attribute your employees have – their time. You waste their time and they, absolutely for sure, will waste yours. I have seen bosses keep their subordinates waiting for hours, days, weeks, months and even years and then wonder why the underlings are late for them. ‘An hour for an hour’ is not in any scripture but it’s well and truly in the script of those you employ. It’s not how you would behave but then not everyone has your standards.
People don’t always respond responsibly to making their own choices. Many who need guidance actually want it. When they do they would prefer it to be an exchange rather than a command. It is ironic that some of the great religions whose founders took the trouble to engage and care are succeeded by clerics who only enrage and despair. That goes for many bosses.
The line between encouraging and spoiling is a fine one. It needs skilful navigation to maintain the balance. You never get it completely right so you must be prepared to trim your handling of those who work with and for you – sometimes frequently.
Your success in doing so will depend on your ability to read people.
Do you know the signals of spoiling? Please tell us if you do. firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll write more about them in a future Daily Paradox.
01 March 2023