New times bring forth new challenges and positives. This is definitely so for the IT services sector as well – an industry that is global, tech-focussed and serves pretty much every industry segment in the world. The recent transition to WFH en-masse is no different – sharing a couple perspectives from conversations with collegues and friends over the last week.
Interestingly, the developers/ testers/ designers etc. are all ok for the most part. Their challenges were mainly in getting the right access, the right devices and the tasks for the week – and then they are able to just proceed with their work. It’s some of the middle managers who seem to struggle – they suddenly find that their time is not their own. While working across time-zones had got them to extend their working hours earlier, now suddenly they find that WFH stretches this too much. It was hard to lie boundaries – no one knew when the day started, when it ended nor when it was a weekend. Work just seemed to fill in every waking hour.
What’s happening? There seem to be two primary reasons:
- Other people claiming their time through indiscriminate use of calendars for blocking their time. There’s an underlying logic that since there is no commute etc, anytime is ok for a call. And a lot of the managers from Fear of missing out of something (FOMO) and somehow mistaking busyness for effective – spend all their waking hours on some call or the other
- Other people claiming their attention through mass emails. The number of people on emails and the number of emails – both have gone up exponentially. Again, with people always having a phone or a laptop closely, responses (and forwards!) are faster leading to very significant email times and distracted lives!
There’s also a massive cognitive overload due to the situation on hand with the virus, and this is working on everyone’s mind in the background – all of which results in emotionally fatigued individuals.
These are early days, and given human capacity to adapt, am sure we’d evolve some optimal responses in the short term.
I thought though of spending a moment on one question – do we allow the above (die up control on who we meet with or our email responses) to happen because of two big (and flawed) assumptions:
a. An assumption that our very identity is tied to the work that we do. It’s clearly not – at least for most people – identification with your managerial persona and title would be but a decade old if you were in your thirties and a few decades old if you were in your fifties. Over half your life you lived life as a non-manager, perhaps it’s time to grab some of that “identity beyond work” back!
Those who have other identities are doing way better. A colleague who is also a gifted singer has started zoom classes for kids during non-working hours. Another friend is teaching online meditation. There are people who are rediscovering their love for books and music afresh. There are those who are discovering the joys of household work – everyone has interests and this seems to be the best time to exercise that. There’s someone out there who is learning to pray and other who is learning to chant. Spending some time with your colleagues to understand their personas bond work in itself will open us to a limitless world. It’s important to understand that this does not mean the ones with other interests do any less quality work, they are just as good and often produce even more inspired work. They are less stressed as well and more fulfilled – an ideal to certainly aim for.
Here’s a masterpiece from Alain De Botton on how to bring back our curiosity – he looks at how children do this effortlessly. A brilliant, brilliant read.
b. There’s also an assumption for many that our time is free. It certainly is not – its our most expensive resource. Here’s seneca explaining this in his inimitable style in a lovely brainpickings.org post:
I am always surprised to see some people demanding the time of others and meeting a most obliging response. Both sides have in view the reason for which the time is asked and neither regards the time itself — as if nothing there is being asked for and nothing given. They are trifling with life’s most precious commodity, being deceived because it is an intangible thing, not open to inspection and therefore reckoned very cheap — in fact, almost without any value.
If this realisation sinks in, time becomes an ally not a nuisance.
If you are one of those mid-management people who find things a little overwhelming – I trust the above would help alleviate this a bit. If you are one of those who already have mastered managing time and the transition to WFH, would love to hear more on your experiences.
Do leave a like/ share/ comment – makes a world of difference as always.