I know you may think, I am out of my mind, but trust me, when I say the next challenges pertaining to human creativity , collaboration and trust are all going to arise from this so -called magic bullet of work-from-home! Join me here as we try to gauge what is perhaps greatly amiss and why what’s missing here will eventually end up causing the next pandemic with connotations spanning the mental health, financial health and work health of individuals and corporations world over! So here we go!
As the virus came calling, governments did what humans are great at doing- imitation- yes imitate what’s happening with the other nation; so as one nation locked down, so did others- well not to blame anyone for so much little was even known as things started to go from bad to worse and by the time people knew what had to be done and there was too much of cheese all over the place to avoid people from tripping, falling and breaking their bones- so the holy answer to all problems became the lock down and with that piece of unwarranted medical harakiri came the second unintended consequence of “work from home”!
People forgot in no time,even their ability to think and see how suddenly, just because the law of the land said so,working from home became fine! It is the same company perhaps, which would have made you move houses so that you could cut the traffic and reach on time, perhaps it is the very same firm which said, the offer letter could be given only if you stayed within a 10 mile radius and can make it ot the office on time, these are the very same offices which cut your leaves, salaries because you clocked in ten minutes late , three times over in a month just as recently as a few months back, now they all seemed to be just fine- for them- even as your privacy and peace at home has been plundered, looted and laid threadbare- whether it is that pet calling for you attention, that maid coming in at the critical moment through you presentation or the small kid who simply doesn’t understand what the parent is doing toying around with an electronic gadget- all and many such more minute scenarios are laying the foundation for your next disaster in the making and if you are not careful, the next one will even shame the virus- because the next challenge coming your way will be more personal- created by you and can only be solved by you!
To begin with, let’s try to understand what has actually happened! One fine day, your organisation was informed it’s not business as usual- like many others you too rejoiced with the thought of being able to work in your pyjamas and seem cool- to post snaps from your kitchen and show your superhuman skills of being able to work at home and for office at the same time- well this was the first checkmate- you just proved to your firm that the work given by your firm- and the price at which it was given to you doesn’t seem to make any sense- so as a consequence- your work-from-home hours suddenly started to stretch beyond your levels of comfort and sanity- so that now forget the kitchen you also find it a challenge to relieve yourself! Add to this the next layer of complication that gets added when you have more number of family members “working from home”- conversations overlap, conversations are overheard, jokes become a pain point and tonality becomes a point of debate- next any remaining confidentiality- whether its that email to your colleague., vendor or boss- doesn’t miss the attention of the other members and often your emails will be spell checked and langage refined- finally at some point your people from office will know- you have got a communication expert sitting by you helping you counter your one more incompetence which now lies more exposed than ever!
Likewise there will be countless odditties that will come to the forefront and few of them will many a times not what you had been saying all the while to the people with whom you worked at the workplace and now that they have intruded your private space- well the sad fact is there is no place to go further and create ambiguity- so what does this to the trust between people? Well as colleagues you have mental images and comfort evolved dealing with specific individuals- not everyone you know makes you equally comfortable hence- you tell what you think is the level of comfort for both of you- but with this private space intrusion there is a new level of problem- a lot of people come to know what you have perhaps not told- because it may not have been necessary- or required or because you didn’t want to- in any case what that ends up doing (which again is unwarranted) is erodes a small amount of trust and once this process starts, trust me there is no going back and it’s just a matter of time that you will see so-called team re-alignments and working dynamics change and in extreme cases people shuffled across the board and in a few other case ejected from the system! All simply because your privacy got intruded and you really had not planned for this shit coming your way!
To all this drama when you add multiple stakeholders and also add the other work-from-home members from your residence (now which resembles kind of a public arena-because of the kind of activities that seem to start at 8am and end only around midnight!) the chaos and confusion only adds up and in some cases is bad enough to drive you crazy enough to either share some unpleasant exchanges with the people in the zone or simply hang up your boots and say a hasty goodbye to what would have otherwise been a smooth career pathway- the one that you had aspired for and set out to achieve right from your college days! So what’s really happening here? Is there a way out of this and way to manage this? How long will this go on and what’s really the matter- the work or you?
Let’s start from the beginning! Do you remember few of the conversations that you had when you took up this job (which has now intruded into your privacy)? Yes, topics like- work-life-balance, respect for private time, no calls or emails on holidays and weekends, why you must move closer so that you can commute and be in the office! Why the office discourages working from home- because they respect your privacy! and now this very office is advocating the very opposite of all that was said and agreed upon- why? The Virus- not at all- you see, global businesses, whether you are selling donuts or some high end jwellery have been under stress even before the pandemic broke out and globally the capitalists led- world of corporate blue collared elites have been waiting for an opportunity to correct the systemic wrongs and the pandemic just happened to be the blessing in disguise that they were ecer waiting for! This once in a lifetime opportunity gave them the reason to dishonour their corporate lease agreements, defer payments to vendors and staff indefinitely (unless in few nations where in the governments intervened and set the rules of engagement – to salvage some sanity), get even with the governments of the day to extract deep discounting for the next few years so on and so forth, not to forget the reset of their banking terms and conditions (the corporate ones- even as at an individual levels you still get hounded by debt collection calls!) So you see, the real thing about asking you to work from home is the least interest of your safety- but in the larger interest of corporate finance and the compulsions that go around with the nexus of business and politics the world over- nothing to say good about and nothing to whine- because neither I am the business nor the government! and you ended up thinking the work-from-home- intrusion to your privacy was a sacrifice that you are doing for upholding your company! Well keep thinking that way- and wait for the next nightmare!
The other serious level problem that has happened is that as individuals begin working connected through distributed spaces- human brain the way it is- trust erodes rapidly and you add a personality angle to it, this differentiating rate of trust erosion for all the right and wrong reasons helps accelerate the fall of teams and bring in the “new order”- read creating lean teams as the new need of the day- thereby kicking in pay cuts and job losses- each and every aspect of this is linked to the innocent looking solution of “work-from-home”! The things that help this, are the ability to track meticulously- time everything to the nth second and no more- lobby meetings, board room chats and walk around the office so the sudden addition of a 60-80 minutes of additional time through the day- ironically enough ends up making you look more non-productive than ever before and you too begin to loose a grip as the normal way of planning does not help as work seems to get over sooner than you think and as the battle to prove efficiency amongst colleagues takes centre stage- each one send sup undoing the other one and eventually create enough fluidity so that when the time comes- all are swept away in one masterstroke of team realignment! The only way that individuals hope that the organization still holds interest in them is by understanding if their home-office furniture ordered is coming in or not! I mean really! So is there anything that we can do, if this is all a game cast at the upper crest of societies and nations, do we stand a chance?
Well, as history says, when the war is with the system, you need to be in the system to beat the system or develop and evolve it, never has anyone been able to alter the course of history by staying aloof, unaffected or away from it! The fact remains that even as we engage and present ourselves to work with corporates or business houses- irrespective how experienced or inexperienced you are- you need to have your own intrinsic non-negotiable terms and conditions! Like all offices have a office rule book or a manual or better still a code of work , you too need to come up with a code book for your life- I mean, after all isn’t that the most important thing that you should ever be bothered about? Something that core and intrinsic, because when all else and everyone leaves you at some point in time- which they will certainly do- what stands with you apart from your shadow will be the core values systems and the intrinsic systems that construct and make you who you are! This, my friend is the essence of being able to stand firmly and face all the storms and high waves that may ever come your way- by harnessing the strength of who you are and for that to happen you need to be connected within and know yourself as well as you know the vocation that you pursue nor the people who matter you! Once you have cracked this essential adb vital code, rest assured, there could be a hundred more vurusses coming your way, the next time an organization asks you to work-from- home,you will know what is coming your way and chances are you’ll either insist to work form office or politely ask them to get in touch with you once the offices reopen! Exposing your private life for the capitalist greed of businesses and politicians is the last thing that you should ever do- this is similar to a soldier allowing spies into the nation! Think about it! Is anything really worth it -at the cost of peace, harmony and the wellbeing of the core unit that you represent in the society- the family that you have!
The work-from-home pandemic is the greatest illusion and perhaps even more dangerous than the virus, the virus will eventually will be tamed- there be vaccines and solutions through medical interventions, but the pandemic of work-from-home if allowed to get a foothold- will end up eroding the basic functional units of the societies the world over- these units could be families- small or large, could be partners living together, could be friends, or good people working on something bigger and better together! All of it will be lost to be enslaved to the greed of the growing capitalist clut with or without collusion of the political class of the day! The only way through this and to stem this, is by knowing who you are, what your value systems are and very importantly having the courage to say No- when enough is enough and guarding your private zone with every ounce of courage that you have!
I leave you here with these thoughts, for you to reflect, what your experiences have been and possibly urging you to create a blueprint for yourself and the unit that you hold close to you- so that you guard yourself from the next attack that may come your way disguised as yet another some new way of living or working!
Ciao for now, grab that coffee and I will be back soon with another article!