Are you just looking busy?

So much of life has changed because of the pandemic in the last 2 years. Don’t worry this post isn’t about that specifically! Everyone has picked at those bones quite a bit.

I once worked with someone who said to me that “being seen” to be busy, or in the office and generally “around the place” was vitally important- didn’t matter what I did, I just had to be seen. I also worked with another person once who moved someone else to an adjacent or nearby desk so they could keep an eye on them. I’ve known people who have their office lights always switched on so they appear in the office all the time. I’ve known of people with one-way blinds fitted so they can see out of their office and no-one can see in and know if they are there.

In a time when we have had a remote world because of the pandemic, and even before that, a change in the work/life balance requirements from those coming into the workforce, wanting to not travel and commute as much, this all seems a little insecure and out of step. I know of a team who were unable to recruit the absolute best candidate for their vacancy because that fantastically skilled candidate didn’t want to upend their life and move house to the required location of the position. The truth was also that they could have very easily done the job remotely or at very least hybrid as the role didn’t really require in-person, face to face contact. This happened pre-pandemic and therefore remote was seen as totally impossible. End result? They hired a person with fewer of the required skills who would physically make the move. Then the pandemic hit and they worked remotely!

Layer onto this numerous training workshops and sessions that I’ve sat in over the years talking about not spending your day being “tied to email” and doing repetitive dull tasks, about spending time “just thinking” and less time on the conveyor belt of the day in order to get some “perspective”.

It is all a bit confused and seems like two things are pulling in opposite directions. I went to see Russell Brand on tour recently and when reflecting on our shared experience of the pandemic he said something like ‘turns out all the jobs that we thought were important, were actually not and could be done remotely and all the jobs that we thought were not important, actually are’.

If you were a new entrant into the world of work you would be confused to know what you should be doing? In your Outlook email client, Microsoft Viva cheerfully tells you (via email of course) weekly how many emails you rashly answered within 30 mins of being received and asks if you want to add ‘Focus Time’ into your daily calendar and how many days you had in the last week without meetings, adding a nice dose of subliminal guilt.

Don’t disturb them, they are THINKING!

I was in a training session once talking about a manager sitting in his office, appearing essentially to be doing nothing and someone saying not to disturb them because “they are thinking”- and how good this was that they did this!

I recently was asked for my thoughts on how the working environment has changed in media particularly. Now, if anything the world of media can adapt to remote working far easier than some industries can. Its nice, but not entirely critical, to have all your audio imaging production together in one location for example. Some remote, some hybrid is possible and if the balance means you can keep your highly skilled workforce happier for longer, then surely that is worth it? Hybrid is probably the best balanced option and gives the benefits of both worlds. There are some definite benefits of face to face meetings and working, collaborating and informal interactions you find in an office environment. As a previous work colleague and friend once commented, their former employer gave them all the tools in order to work remotely in terms of the kit, and then frowned on them if they actually did it! Its folly and old fashioned dinosaur thinking to embrace the technology which enables remote working and then force people not to use it to its full extent or put in place processes to restrict it for illogical “because I said so” type reasons. It is kind of like giving everyone a digital camera and insisting they still use film to actually take any pictures and wait for them to be processed.

If you have to have your staff within eyesight to make sure they are not slacking off, perhaps you didn’t do such a sterling job in the hiring process or maybe the problem is in the mirror or perhaps to do with the working or cultural environment? The world of media has for a long time asked its various regulators over the years to manage the rules imposed on the sector by looking at the outputs, rather than the processes of its creation. Don’t dictate WHERE we need to create the output from, focus on WHAT it sounds like and HOW it achieves the goals of localness for example or whatever parameter. Perhaps the same can be done with any “must come into our building to do tasks” location remote working rules. Don’t focus so much on the WHERE the job is done, focus on the results of the work?

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Published by Dick Stone

Radio...its always been radio.

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