Microsoft was one of the companies that dramatically pivoted to remote work. They enhanced their Teams product in a number of ways to help themselves, and their customers collaborate when people are not located in the same physical space. They also started to study the way in which people worked. I wrote about this last year, and they continue to study how work has changed, even though they are allowing workers back into offices.
There is a new article that talks about the differences between workers and managers. Managers think they are thriving, and workers are not. There may be many reasons for this, but I suspect one of these is the privilege of space. Many managers and senior workers likely have bigger residences, and can spread out. They can change their locations and experience a new environment. Since so many of them might get by with less powerful laptops, and often work on a single item at a time, it’s easy to move from the kitchen to a dedicated office, to a bedroom, or even out on a deck.
As a technical person, I’ve often felt cramped and crippled when I don’t have two monitors where I can see a lot of code and perhaps have a document or other information on another screen. Even when working with VSCode, I like having a separate terminal or place to test code, as opposed to ALT+TABing between windows. It’s not easy to move a couple of screens around my house.
After a year of remote work, I still find many co-workers in cramped space situations. Working in a bedroom, a living room, or something else. Most of us haven’t built houses with the idea that we’d be in them working and living full time. With less places to go, I’m sure many in apartments, shared spaces, or even in houses with family feel cramped, stagnant, and even incarcerated.
I also think that for many workers, there is unseen, and maybe implied, pressure to get more done. While some of this has existed in office spaces, I think the lack of contact with a manager might cause many workers to feel they have to prove they are really getting lots of work done.
Some of the ideas from Microsoft, all of which appear to be connected to digital services, seem to miss the things most of us need. We need contact with other humans, a break from the digital world, and time in the analog world. We need a way to get away from devices, screens, and digital touch.
I’m trying to do better myself, and I am encouraging those I know to find ways to take more breaks outside, in other rooms, or even a drive in a car. Now if we could find a way to ensure more management would support this, I think that we might get better engaged and creative workers.
Steve JonesListen to the podcast at Libsyn, Stitcher, Spotify, or iTunes.