Weeknotes S3 E3 2020

Over-communication, The Office and Levels of Autonomy

Over-communication = good

Noreen Blanulet’s words about focusing on people and relationships in complexity from last weeks weeknotes have been ringing in my ears. I also think that whilst we’re all still figuring out this distributed work malarky, over-communicating is probably the way to go. It feels slow and occasionally a bit awkward, but it saves tonnes of time and potential re-work in the long run.

Is ‘The Office’ really the thing we’re missing?

I spotted a really good provocation earlier in the week that stated humans need offices.

I suspect the aforementioned article is deliberately click baity in nature. But, I think the binary choice of ‘office’ or ‘work from home’ is the wrong focus for the debate.

This is a complex topic which needs to take into account that people are different, jobs are different and caring responsibilities are different. Not to mention the broader implications this has upon society. The conversation we should be having is about how we support a range of modes of work.

There are plenty of people who are desperate for offices to re-open. Anecdotally I’ve heard all sorts of reasons that people want to head back to their desks for either one or two days a week, or full 9–5 as before.

  • “Don’t have a comfortable space to work at home.”
  • “Don’t have the head space due to kids/dogs/noise.”
  • “Having difficult/stressful conversations on the phone at home make that space feel less safe/comfortable.”
  • “No divsion between work and life.”
  • “Missing social connect.”

I don’t think all of the points above inherently point to ‘The Office’ as the only solution. I think it comes back to that point for those of us who continue to work from home during the lock down, this experience has not really been working at home. We’ve been working through a global pandemic. I think some of us are so knackered by the prolonged strain of lock down that a return to something that looks and feels like normal is a welcome respite.

Stewart Davison made this excellent point about it not being about the office, but enabling work from anywhere.

I think this is absolutely the right direction of travel. Also that our collective tolerance of commuting will have vanished or at least been greatly lessened now that we’ve got that time back in our day to do other things.

There are many other good reasons for not travelling miles every day to do work that can be done from home or locally. Local businesses could certainly use the support from people who normally disappear on their daily commute. And our environment could have a chance to recover as demonstrated by the rapid average decrease in air pollution.

The next challenge would be, how do you ensure that people can work together when working patterns are different? I think we’d have to be prepared to endure some more discomfort until we learn how and when to work sychronously and asynchronously. That might be a tricky proposition as we start to emerge from lock down, but if not now.. when?

Five levels of autonomy for distributed work

I think this post on the ‘Distrubted Work’s Five Levels of Autonomy’ by Matt Mullenweg is pretty great, although I’m not clear if the goal of distributed work here implies never sharing the same physical space. I’m always a bit wary of absolutes.

But, it does provide a bit of a framework to talk about where we think we are now and what the next step would look and feel like. At risk of sounding like a broken record, I think it’s important we have these conversations now before the gravitational pull of the office 9–5 reasserts itself as default.

Optimise for work

Some changes that I’m aware of this week that have subtly altered my working pattern.

  1. I’m definitely more busy than normal.
  2. I’ve had less meetings than normal.
  3. The kids have been out during the day with my Mother (hooray for bubbles).

I’ve noticed that without any distractions and only a few interspersed meetings.. I’m knackered. Not physically tried, just mentally tired.

I stumbled across a post last week (or the week before?) with the following quote…

“Leonardo da Vinci once proclaimed that a piece of art was never finished, but merely abandoned. For the majority of people that is now the ultimate outcome of each day at work. There is always something else they could do and there is always a tool to hand which would allow them to do it.”

I feel extremely seen. I’m a really outcomes focused person, and when those outcomes get elusive I feel like I start stretching for them… “If I just spend another hour on this, it will be in a better spot tomorrow..” etc.

I remember talking to someone about overuse of Pomodoro and how it can eventually over-extend you past your normal limits for concerntration (who was this? Let me know so I can credit you!).

I think I’m also keenly feeling the need for a change of scenery. I have tried working outdoors a couple of times this week, but I get all squinty because it’s too hard to see my laptop screen when it’s bright outside. Plus I miss my extra displays (First world problems, I know).

It might be time to see what I can do next week to mix up my working day to inject variety.

I’ve been reading/listening to…

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