Bonus Episode: WFH, Offices, & “Culture”

Bonus Episode: WFH, Offices, & “Culture”

Over the past month, LinkedIn has posted several articles questioning how working from home impacts everything from developing a company culture to making new “friends” at work to whether a right to disconnect will ever come to the US.

Key topics:

✔️ If the only way in your life to potentially meet new people and make some new pals is by being butt-in-seat at an office, you need to take a hard look at why that is. I understand that Covid has impaired the ability for people to go out and about; with that said, there are still a plethora of ways to connect with new people that don’t involve forcing social activities on your colleagues.
✔️ Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. If you’re working, then work. And after work, step away from the laptop. Turn off that Slack channel. Do not tell clients that you’re available 24/7.
✔️Who are the people pushing so hard for a return to the office? Who are the ones bleating the loudest that the company won’t have a culture anymore if everyone stays remote? Well, typically, it’s micromanagers and lonely extroverts who want to corral everyone back to the office whether it’s actually safe to do so or not.

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Transcription by  Please forgive any typos!


Hello, Hello, and thanks for tuning in. So I’ve decided that from time to time I’ll be popping up with bonus episodes, whether it’s to read some viewer mail or to just address breaking news because it seems like more and more there are topics relevant to entrepreneurs, the business world, HR, staffing, all the typical topics that I cover in this podcast and trying to keep up with the pace of it. And scheduling out episodes and planning ahead is becoming difficult. So to ease my own scheduling situation as well as to really address things in a timely fashion I will be popping up with some bonus episodes here and there. And this will be one such bonus episode because I started to notice toward the end of last year and beginning of this year, LinkedIn was asking a lot of questions, and it’s news articles about our offices necessary with all this work from home. What’s the impact on company culture, or the ability to build friendships based on people that you work with? Will the right to disconnect ever show up in the United States, and I wanted to just pop up and record this special episode to tackle some of those questions on the one titled our offices necessary. Kate Chapman, one of the editors at LinkedIn news writes, productivity among American workers more than doubled during the pandemic as many works from home a Goldman survey shows but bosses want employees back in offices, why? Management theorists say being physically together reinforces a company’s culture, which helps to alleviate harassment, burnout and fraud, writes Bloomberg in quote, oh, I can feel my eyes rolling all the way back into my head like Tony Stark in The Avengers. First of all, like okay, management theorists say, Who Who are the management theorists, who are these people that are saying in order to have a company culture everybody has to be but in seat in the digital pan Opticon. And who’s paying them? You can find and theorist scientists, whoever you want to say whatever you want, if you throw enough money at them. I mean, perhaps that sounds cynical, but I’m just being honest with you guys. In response to this topic, someone named Derek N H Notman is the founder at connector wrote, culture is not a byproduct of the workplace culture is something we’ve been bringing to the workplace for many millennia. Up until about two years ago, we brought our culture to physical workplaces, which was how we initially defined our workplaces and then builds upon that foundation. But the way things are done have changed. It feels like our culture has shifted along with our requirement for a physical office. We also know for a fact that the two are most certainly not mutually exclusive, people are getting the same or more work done, and still leaning into their cultures at home and work, I can still have the same conversations with my team remotely as if I did in person. And when we want to find time to meet in person, whether that be for collaboration, innovation, or for laughs. In other words, the lack of a physical office doesn’t mean our culture just evaporates. In quote, I would agree that your culture doesn’t have to evaporate just because everyone is not sitting there, but in seat in the office. And if you have a group of highly extroverted people that enjoy being highly connected to one another, let’s face it, they have tons of tools at their disposal to be able to make that happen. But there’s something else that I want to really point out here. Do we go to work, to Yuk it up to play to have fun to act like we are kindergarten kids again? Frankly, I say no, that’s not my approach to work. My approach to work is I want to show up, do what needs to be done and then get on with my life. And while I’m working, I want to be focused on doing the best job possible for the client period. The client is not paying me to goof off to play to try to make buddies with somebody, you know are trying to pick up a date they are paying me to do a job to advance a ball forward to finish a project on time. They’re not paying me to goof off. There was another news article on LinkedIn called Work From Home imperils work friend prospects. And this one is by Andrew Murphy, another editor at LinkedIn news, who writes is it possible to make new friends and forge strong bonds with colleagues when almost all of your connections are digital? It’s a salient question considering many of us are more likely to make friends at work than anywhere else. Researchers from Gallup found that with many colleagues working remote or hybrid schedules, a Boston Magazine piece posits it could become even more difficult if remote work persists as the future standard. Work gives us social connections, professional friends and personal friends says siddell Neely a professor at the Harvard Business School, and quote, I do hope that I pronounced that name correctly. I hate mispronouncing someone’s name. Okay, interesting. So as I was looking at the responses to this, there was one that I just completely loved. Absolutely loved it so much. So that inspired me to jump on and do this bonus episode. Rather than putting it off. I thought, No, this is this is so excellent. It was written by Scott Stoddard. And here’s what he writes. There’s that damn phrase, again, lack of culture. It’s the latest buzzword that CEOs are trying to use to justify making everyone come back to a brick and mortar office, even if the jobs can be done on the moon. What’s lost in this discussion is that productivity has stayed the same and in many cases increased since the pandemic started, and many have had to work from home. You don’t go to work to socialize. You work to successfully complete projects with a team that makes your employer profits and many of us are introverts whose energy is sapped by trying to focus on getting work done while trying to maintain the social facade and despise water cooler talk at team building lunches, I get up every day to work and get shit done, as my wife likes to say, not chit chat the day away. When you have teams meetings as opposed to in person meetings, the team is forced to focus on the topics and tasks at hand and not veer off into no man’s land and quote, yeah, I love that. Now, I would say that some team meetings and zoom meetings can still veer off into no man’s land. And people can be overly chit chatty, but since a lot of them have time limits set upon them. It’s like, Alright, we’re going to sit here and do this 30 minute meeting and whatever doesn’t get accomplished has to get done on another day. So it really does inspire people to at least try theoretically, to stay on some kind of topic. But I love the fact that he points out, you don’t go to work to socialize, you work to successfully complete projects with a team that makes your employer profits. Hallelujah. You know, if the only place that you’re capable of making a new friend is in the office, you need to question why that is, you know, I would really encourage you to talk to a therapist or a counselor about that. And I’m not being facetious. I’m not being sarcastic. I’m being dead serious. It would behoove you, I think, to talk to a professional and find out well, what’s going on that I can’t make friends any other way than an office where we’re all sort of randomly thrown together, we come from all of these different walks of life, we may or may not really have anything in common other than the workplace. And there’s so many avenues that you can use now to pursue hobbies and common interests, common goals with people that I just find it really befuddling. why someone would feel that the only place they’re capable of making a new friend is at the office. I feel that also speaks to workaholism. Because, you know, in European countries, and whenever I talk to whenever I do like a language exchange, or a language lesson, I talked to people in Europe, they’re like, I don’t view my co workers as my friends. I don’t view the company I work for as my family. My family is my family. My mom is my mom, my boss is not my mom or my dad. That’s absurd. You know, they have outside hobbies, they have outside interests. And after they clock out for the day, they love to pursue those outside interests, whether it’s running, hiking, playing cards, sculpting, painting, whatever. I mean, they have some other outside interests that they pursue besides work. So I think part of this speaks to the American fetishization of just working and working and working and working and allowing your career to define every part of who you are. I also really need to record either a regular episode or a bonus episode to discuss whether or not people that you work with are the same as True Blue genuine friends. In my experience, the answer to that question is no, they’re not the same, especially if you work in any kind of sales and marketing environment. Or anything that’s hyper competitive, where it would be to someone else’s interest to stab you in the back, you know, somebody who is willing to throw you under the bus and then run the tires over you four or five times in order to benefit themselves is that person really your friend you’re going to be able to call them at two o’clock in the morning if you’re feeling really down and you need somebody to help you out? Or if you break down on the side of the road and you need somebody to come help you know, you’re not so that’s just food for thought, you know, is the workplace really the best avenue to make new friends or new buddies? You know, in my opinion, probably not. But that quote about a lack of culture. It ties in. So well also to this other question of are offices necessary and CEOs bitching and moaning that, well, we just won’t have a culture anymore. If we allow everybody to work from home as a permanent maneuver than our cultural, then our culture will just dry up and blow away. And we’ll be nothing which I mean, let’s face it, that’s just simply not true. If it were, then no company would still be in business. Anyone that had a hybrid workforce or a 100%, fully remote workforce would have gone out of business, and it would have been this huge, epic impact on economy, the ripple effects would be tremendous. But that hasn’t happened. It’s a bit like Chicken Little going, the sky is falling, when really, that’s just not true. On this topic of our offices necessary, someone named Matthew Charles Davis writes, ever since I began commuting to desk jobs at offices, I’ve wondered why. And it turns out, the emperor is wearing no clothes. A new survey by Goldman Sachs shows worker productivity actually rose during the pandemic. And that’s despite bosses crowing repeatedly about the value of office culture to anybody who will listen and quote, huh, that’s exactly right. Productivity is up, people are able to have more bonding time with, you know, their actual family, with their children with their spouse, and they’re not worried so much about office culture, the people who are having a whine and moan about that are managers and CEOs and control freaks. You know, I’ll say it I’ll be that person in the wilderness waving the banner and saying it’s, it’s people that want control. Mike the micromanager, Ned the needy, Nancy the nitpicker, these people that feel like I need to have a boot on the back of your neck. I don’t trust you to work independently. Or I’m so anal retentive, that I need to know every step that you took. You know, this is like what I said on the mentally unscripted podcast, this is not eighth grade algebra. And you don’t need to see me work that equation out on paper so that you like the eighth grade algebra teacher can check my work. If the project came through on time, the deliverable was awesome. And everyone’s happy then, about my process and what I was doing behind the curtain, who cares, cares, cares, cares, cares. There’s another paragraph in Matthew Charles Davis’s post that I want to read because I think it is so spot on. Underneath all of this, though, there’s what I call the big secret about the American workplace. And it’s this, many bosses don’t actually expect their staff to work very hard. And in exchange for a steady paycheck and the glimmer of a possible promotion. Most bosses expect their staff to enjoy the trade off. But what’s really driving the great resignation is that most staff are no longer convinced by the big secret. They realize their bosses aren’t actually working any harder than they are. And they expect to work in a more collegial manner with people who appreciate their effort, replicate it, and aren’t constantly suspicious that they’d rather be working somewhere else and quote, yep, round of applause for that. And I saw this when I was in corporate America so many times, you know, and working in recruiting an HR type of work. I’ve not only seen it myself in places where I have been an employee, but I’ve had a front row seat in talking to candidates about how often this happens in workplaces, of all sorts of industries. It’s almost like well, you know, we expect you to come here to the pan Opticon so that we can watch you and we can monitor you you’re expected to get up and shower and shave or groom yourself appropriately and put on some business appropriate clothing. And it’s like pantomime, it’s like theater, you’re going to go through all of these steps and show up to the stage to deliver this performance. Now, we don’t really expect that you’re going to work very hard while you’re here. We know that you’re going to be goofing off on your cell phone, you’ll be checking Facebook and Instagram or watching Tik Tok videos every five minutes, we kind of concede that technology has made that possible for you to screw off more but you know, damn it, you’re going to show up so that at any given time Mike the micromanager Ned, the needy can walk by you and surveil you take a look over your shoulder Hey, what are you working on over there and you can quickly pull up an Excel spreadsheet and do the Jesus’s coming look busy routine until he walks off and then you can go back to looking at cute cats dancing on tick tock or whatever. And so I think that what Matthew is calling the big secret and this idea of like people have debunked it the Emperor’s not wearing clothes anymore and we get it we see as nakedness is spot on. It’s about the results that you deliver and if you can deliver outstanding results for your clients or your employer working from home in your pajamas and not sat in a cubicle in fancy dress clothes or you know polo or a pair of khakis, then who cares. It needs to be about the deliverable, the end result, and not about micromanaging whatever process or processes that you took to get there. There was also a LinkedIn article called will right to disconnect reach the US. And Jake Perez, another of the editors at LinkedIn news has written laws that provide a right to disconnect from work after hours have gained momentum in European countries and part of Canada. So is it a matter of time before we see a similar legislative push in the US amid the great reshuffle, the Wall Street Journal reports that some US companies are already enforcing limits and experimenting with digital tools, including developing tech that kicks people out of group chats after hours. They help these efforts prevent burnout, retain talent and maintain productivity while encouraging unplugging and quote, hmm, you know, I’m inclined to be suspicious of any digital tool. Because so many times those are used just for surveillance. They’re used to monitor you. They’re used to catch you doing something bad or catch you being naughty, and not selling your soul to the company. But the bigger question is like, why do you need to kick people out of group chats after hours? Like what what’s going on that they feel the need to be in there anyway? Are they goofing off and socializing at nine o’clock at night? Are they in a last minute push to get a project done on time? Do they have a boss who’s a complete a hole that just rides heard on them all the time? And they feel like they have to be in there? Like, let’s look at the question of why they’re doing that. Why are they in a group chat in the middle of the night anyway? Like let’s let’s sort of start by by analyzing the data before we start to prescribe a cure, when we don’t even know exactly what the sickness is yet. In response to this question, Rachel M. Sanders had written a great post and I’ll read it for you now, I once heard interesting advice from a successful CEO do less, he went on about playing more golf and less tennis, figuratively and allowing yourself more time to think the words have stayed with me through my highly productive days. Through my attempts at creating work life balance, and through what I thought was my downtime. Jay Dixit of the neuro Leadership Institute wrote about doing downtime better about our need for unstructured, unfocused time to think to create to rest our minds. As I read it, I thought about my executive coaching clients outside of the US in Europe, Asia and South America, who have shared with me how they spend time away from work. Many seem to truly unplug untethered from the to do list and intentionally do less. Idle time is not necessarily wasted time and quote, I definitely think about Eat Pray Love and Dolce far niente when I read something like this the sweetness of doing nothing, you know, and how one of the characters explains to Liz like when he sees a beer ad that says you deserve it. He goes, Yeah, of course I do. Like, I don’t have to go to an office and work 12 hours a day to crack open a cold beer and say, Yeah, I deserve this. I’m going to enjoy this. I think sometimes in the American mind, we get stuck in maybe an old fashioned Calvinistic, or puritanical idea of, well, you need to work really hard all day, in order to deserve something later. If you’re not working, working, working and plugged in all the time, then you’re idle and idle hands are the devil’s workshop. And you’re going to find something really terrible to do with your spare time. But that certainly does not have to be the case. I read an article the other day that for long term weight loss results, unstructured pleasurable exercise activities are better in the long run. So if someone is doing a lot of high intensity exercise that they really don’t like they’re showing up to the gym, or they’re plugging in a DVD or pulling up something on YouTube. And they’re doing it because they’re like, Well, I have to do this. You know, it’s important to stay active. I need to burn X number of calories for today. So I don’t really enjoy doing this, but I’m gonna go ahead and do it. Someone exercising in that way is at more of a disadvantage than someone who’s like, you know, I just really love to go outside and hike, I really love to go outside and walk. I really love to ride my bicycle around. I mean, it doesn’t always have to be about these balls to the walls, intense exercise regimens. It’s actually better in the long run if you are doing something that you enjoy. And I thought about the work world, you know, it’s important to do something that you have some level of enjoyment about. Now, I’m not going to sit here and blow smoke up your butt and tell you that if you are self employed, if you’re a freelancer, if you own your own business, then every day it’s going to be peaches and cream, sunshine and roses. You’re never going to have any challenges. You’re never going to accidentally onboard a client that oh gives you a migraine, or anything like that. That’s just simply not true. But I would say that if every day feels like a struggle, if every day feels like hell on earth, if every day feels like you want to put your head in a meat grinder, then there is very definitely a problem. You are not businessing right. If you feel like every day is a complete nightmare from hell. Same thing with exercise routine, if you feel like every day, you’re having to twist your body into a pretzel and do abusive things to it. How long do you think you’re going to keep that up before you say To hell with this, I’m tired, I’m sore, my joints hurt, I’ve ripped muscles, I’m done, I’m over, it’s not worth it. So you don’t want to carry yourself to that place of burnout by doing a bunch of things that you completely freaking hate. To sum up, the first thing that I want to say is if you feel that the only way in your life to meet new people and potentially make new friends is by being but in seat and an office somewhere. I want to really challenge you to re examine that and determine why is that the case in your life? Are you a workaholic? Do you feel like you have no other avenues to meet new people because you’re just busy working all the time. And that’s the only place where you get to meet other people. If so, that’s not healthy, we should not live to work, we shouldn’t be working 24 hours a day to the exclusion of ever meeting anybody else that might enrich our lives. Or if you feel that you’re struggling with interpersonal relationships, it’s very difficult for you to walk up and have a conversation with someone or to meet somebody new, then at least consider talking to a therapist or a counselor about that and getting to the root cause of it. You may also want to look at your current circle of friends, or your current social circle and determine if there’s somebody there that might want to be your wing man or your wing woman. If you’re sitting there shaking your head, and I just don’t think anybody would ever want to do that. For me, I don’t think anybody would ever show up for me in that way. Don’t sell yourself short. I have a friend who is highly extroverted, yet painfully shy. And if you’re a frequent tuner enter of this program, you will know that I am neither. I’m highly introverted, but not really shy about much of anything. I’m pretty plain spoken and bold. There’s not a whole lot that throws me in life. And he would complain sometimes and saying it just seems like a bitter irony that you’re introverted and you really don’t give a damn. But yet you can walk up and talk to anybody, you could go up to a signpost. And after 10 minutes, the signpost we want to be your best friend, I don’t get it. It feels awful that I want to meet all these people. And I want to go to all these social events and be in these loud, crowded venues and you don’t but yet you can talk to anybody. So he kept dropping hints about wanting me to help him with this problem and sort of be like his wing woman. And I said, All right, I will cut you a deal. There is a bar and grill down the street from where I was working at the time. I said on a particular day of the week, they do karaoke night. I knew that he liked karaoke and enjoyed singing. And I said, I will help you, I will meet you there after work. And I will introduce you to some people, I will get some conversations going for you. If you’ll flip the bill for dinner and a drink for me, I will do that for you. But now not gonna stay there the whole night. Because after I get done working, I’m exhausted. My social barometer is starting to get low, my energy level starting to get low, but I will show up and I will do this for you. But after that you’re on your own, you’ll have to be there for the rest of the night doing your own thing. He took me up on it and had a great time I was good on my word. I helped him get some conversation started helped him meet some new people helped him get kind of infused into the crowd feeling good, feeling confident. And then when I was tired, and my battery hit zero, I left and went back home. But there may be somebody in your life who would be willing to do that for you. Now, obviously, this is what the story I’m telling you about was way before the pandemic, you want to make sure that you’re following appropriate COVID protocols. There may be somebody in your life already that isn’t shy. If you are and you feel like man, I really want to get out there and meet some new people, I want to have more friends, I just don’t know how to do it or I get super nervous. When I’m introducing myself, he may already know somebody that could be a wingman or wingwoman that would be willing to help. The second thing I want to say is render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. When you’re working, then you need to work. I think one of the reasons why work gets dragged on and on and on. Instead of stopping in a sensible hour like five or six o’clock it just seems to bleed into the nighttime hours and a never ending is because when people are quote supposed to be working so often they’re not. And some of these digital tools that are used for surveillance can also be used to goof off. Everybody get on Slack and we’re going to get on teams and have a virtual happy hour. Let’s get a channel going to gripe about the boss or let’s talk about clients that we can’t stand and I get it you know there there certainly is some bonding that happens over mutual commiseration. and being able to talk about your tales of woe. But you can also waste a hell of a lot of time that way too. Personally, the way that I work each day is a combination of the Pareto principle and Eat That Frog. When I start out the day, I really look at, alright, what’s the kind of little least desirable frog that I’m going to have to eat today. And I’m going to get that out of the way and get it done and over with, and I’m going to focus on activities that I know are going to bring in revenue, I’m not going to waste a lot of time on things I’m not sure about, or maybe things that need to be done that are not urgent, that are not high priority, I’m going to take care of the things that are most important at the beginning of the day, when my mind is clear, everything’s fresh, my battery is fully charged, I take care of that first. And I feel like you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you’re spending so much of your time goofing off on Facebook or watching cute cat videos on TikTok like, there’s going to be plenty of time in your day to do those things that you enjoy. If you go ahead and you take care of your work, you get it done. You get it over with you present an awesome deliverable to your client. And then you can go on with your life. But you do that by rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. And so if you’re supposed to be working, then work, get it done, get it over with and then when you clock out, let it be, you don’t need to be camped out on a slack channel. You don’t need to be camped down on Microsoft Teams. And for the love of God. Don’t ever tell somebody Yeah, sure. You can call me at three o’clock in the morning, I’ll answer the phone or I’ll I’ll be up at that hour. Sure. It’s no problem like, are you nuts. At three o’clock in the morning, you need to either be asleep or be doing something that brings you pleasure, but you don’t need to be available to your clients 24 hours a day that leads to burnout, and stress, don’t do it. The third and final thing that I want to say is if you find that you are Stranger in a Strange Land, maybe you are the lone introvert in a company full of highly extroverted people. Or maybe you are super productive, you like to run lean, you really like the Pareto principle, you want to figure out how to maximize the results, how to make sure that you get the most bang for your buck, the most bang for the amount of time that you’re going to spend. But yet, you have found that you’re in a company full of people that are on the opposite side of the spectrum. Everything’s very lackadaisical, they can figure out 100 different ways to waste time and to not be productive and to make the workday drag on and on and on. I would invite you to reconsider whether or not you really belong there. Now what I’m not saying, I am not saying immediately Tender your resignation and quit your job. No, no, no, no, no. I’m simply asking you, especially in light of whatever you want to call it, the great resignation, the great contemplation, the great reshuffle, there are other places that you can work. Or if you want to freelance or start your own business, those are also options available to you. So if you feel like you’re sticking out in the company like a sore thumb, you don’t feel that the culture is a good fit for you nor you for it, it might be beneficial to at least consider whether you would be better suited at another place. I definitely know what it’s like to feel that you are the only introvert in a sea of extroverts. And they can come up with some of the most asinine activities, things that are never ever, ever going to add a single dime to the company’s profitability. Nobody’s going to learn anything valuable. Nobody’s going to take anything meaningful out of it. It’s just junk. You know, whether it’s singing songs and performing skits for the owners amusement or luncheon learns where you don’t really learn anything, but you have to sit there and eat a soggy submarine sandwich like who is benefiting from this because that’s definitely not the employees. If you feel that you’re in a position like that now or you’re working for a company where maybe things have historically been pretty good but the the old boss man wants you to come back to the digital panopticon and be acid seat because company culture and you already know that you don’t want to do that you’d rather pull your own teeth out with pliers then have to go back to the office back to the commute back to dressing up every day, then reconsider. If you belong there or not look at what your options are. Plan your exit strategy carefully. Don’t jump off the cliff without a parachute. But I just want you to at least open up to the possibility that you don’t have to eat a dirt sandwich every day in order to be gainfully employed.

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