(Or why you’re not a troglodyte for wanting to come back to work)
It’s been fascinating to see the race to defend our current ‘extreme remote working’ as THE only way forward.
(‘Extreme remote working is AKA ‘working from your own home’ because it’s the law).
Google jumped first and extended ‘everyone can work from home until 2021’, but it took just a few days for Facebook to follow suit. Pretty soon, anyone who had ever even owned a laptop was drowning in agreement. How could we possibly have imagined that an office was a good way to work? So last century working in an office when I get to sit in the garden or on the veranda overlooking the crashing waves?!
But somewhere along the line, we might need to pause and think, and maybe even swim against this tide. You see, the question is not ‘to office or not to office’, but how do we connect, how do we belong, and is it OK to want to be back amongst the tribe?
Level 1 – The Screaming Obvious
Now, I’m not going to patronise you by over-describing the people who actually can’t work from home, or more correctly, can’t do their job from home. For example, it’s hard for a uniformed police officer to tackle crime in their own kitchen – unruly kids aside – or for that pathology nurse to take blood from anyone other than themselves in their dining room. And it will be pretty difficult for a disability carer to use zoom to support their client showering and getting ready tomorrow morning. They will need to front up to their client’s home.
So, let’s assume we let this group head back to work without judgement, for the good of us all. Let’s drop into the next level.
Level 2 – The Pretty Obvious
This is the group where a short thoughtful conversation over lunch probably has us all already considering. This is the person who has a tiny share flat, shared with Mum and Dad and two siblings. It’s the person whose home is not safe due to domestic violence. It might also be the people who are in a crowded share house, where they had planned to see each other a few odd nights every week for dinner, and now find themselves crowded round the dining table eyeballing each other, all day every day for months on end. There is no verandah or crashing waves, just those awkward conversations we all remember from our first (and maybe second) share houses.
If we stretch a little, we think of people who are new to their job, and need on-boarding or some basic on-the-job training to get started.
Maybe, they simply have too many pets or too many kids, to make a go of working off the coffee table, while they also try to oversee a spot of home-schooling.
Even these groups, we can empathise with. Some really good leaders and good businesses have thoughtfully kept space for this group to come in. Not forced at all, just a quiet offer that they’re welcome any time into the office.
And that brings us to everyone else.
Level 3 – A bunch of us
There’s a group of people who just rather like hanging with other people.
It’s not that we don’t love our family or pets or our dining table or, if we have the luxury, that little study we’ve set up. It’s just that we love our work tribe just as much.
We genuinely enjoy seeing our regular coffee community as we pick up the morning cappuccino (without the need to say ‘no choc pls’ because they remember us). We love to laugh out loud as we wrestle over who’s music to play today. We like to share dumplings at lunch time, especially on birthdays. And yes!, I did see that article on Trump’s latest craziness. I’m as outraged as you. And no!, I can’t believe Carlton lost in the last ten minutes again! (Actually, I can believe that about Carlton, but I’m optimistic for next week. Again, again). There’s a joy in agreeing or debating together on things that matter, and things that don’t, and neither feel quite the same over a laptop.
And all of that is way before we get to actually working together.
(or some funny things about being human)
It’s a funny thing when we measure work purely by how fast we can go. It leads to all sorts of goofy conversations about how much faster we can go alone. I am so efficient when I’m going hell for leather on my dining table solo. No one can beat me!
What if I ask you these questions?
- What did you teach other people today?
- How many times did you learn something from someone else?
- Did you seek out an opinion that came from outside your bubble?
- Did you help a colleague who was really struggling, but were hard to spot across the computer screen?
- Did you hear a new song, not on your play list, or share a new book, podcast or Netflix recommendation?
- Did you help a local café that is doing it really tough right now?
- Did you feel accountable to the tribe beyond your front gate?
Human beings are tribal. We belong together.
We need to laugh. If you don’t believe me, read about the 7 scientific reasons why we should laugh more.
We need be in physical contact with others – to be patted in the back or elbow bumped while we can’t hug. If you don’t believe me read about ‘being touch starved’ or ‘having skin hunger’ from a lack of physical contact.
So many of the best things in life are tribal, not mass societal. Go ahead and scale your idea, but your creativity will be entrenched in your tribe. After all, if you take it out to the limit, tribes create a win/win that is unbeatable. An accountability and passion for the communal that exceeds any emotion attached to how fast we go as individuals.
You’re not a troglodyte. You’re a human being.
And it’s cool to admit it. Some of us love the tribe and hanging out face-to-face
It’s an extension of ourselves. Learning together is energising, being challenged is a joy, and it is these stretch moments that make us feel as though we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We love that laughter, and care deeply for one another. It makes us better versions of ourselves.
Can you get it on zoom? Maybe. If you like your tribe in one-hour blocks on flat screen technology.
But those of us who miss the real thing, well, we’re willing to stand in defence of a preferred future in which we can be together often. Flatscreens are our ‘for now workaround’, not the master plan.
As soon as the gates are open, we’ll be back to together.
“Capp, no choc please”, not that I needed to say no choc.
*And I dedicate this article to our Co-Founder, James Hancock. While I LOVE that he’s over in the USA building mwah. at rapid speed, despite this crazy pandemic, I do seriously miss brainstorming new ideas and crunching ridiculous databases, all while you’re educating us about tennis and playing bad music choices. When those borders open again, and they will, I look forward to you showing us around Philadelphia, and we’ll show you around our old home in Chicago.
And to Sally Woolford, our fab Business Director in Adelaide. We love you building the biz there too, but it would be very cool to have that Crows versus Blues debate in person, and maybe take a weekend together in Maclaren Vale.te