14 Feb “Too rigid with flexibility” 🤦🏻♀️
Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay
“In 2023, even the most carefully thought-out hybrid work plan can be undercut if bosses get ‘too rigid with flexibility.’ Ajay Banga, vice chairman at growth equity investor General Atlantic, thinks that’s the obvious snag in the new remote work era. ” –https://fortune.com/2023/02/12/hybrid-work-balance-ajay-banga-mastercard/
Too rigid with flexibility. Wouldn’t it be easier and clearer to simply say, “I think bosses need to stop being flexible with employees” rather than dressing it up as something else?
“Banga, who was CEO of Mastercard for 11 years and later the company’s chairman, strongly believes in the power of in-person collaboration, but says it can’t come at the expense of giving people the freedom they need.
‘You burn through a lot of social capital when you reduce everyone to little squares on a screen,’ Banga told Fortune’s Peter Vanham in an interview on Fortune Connect, Fortune’s exclusive leadership community. But if working in person with a team isn’t feasible, he adds, remote work is still ‘a pretty productive way to get stuff done, as compared to flying to Timbuktu to meet someone.'” -Fortune, Ibid.
Well yes. As we all know, I loathe video conferencing and I think the stress it puts on people, the time it wastes, and the possibilities it creates for discrimination are worthy of that loathing. In comparison to driving or flying to some far-flung destination just to meet for an hour or two, yes, it’s obviously better to use technology. It is stressful and reductive to put everyone on some garish Zoom meeting as postage stamp squares on a video platform. And let’s be real: in the vast majority of these meetings or cowpoke round-ups, nothing productive happens anyway. It wastes a lot more than it gives back, IMO.
So is the answer to herd everyone back to the office? I’ve warned you more times than I can count that yes, a lot of people are goin’ back to the cube farm, like it or not.
“But it wouldn’t be Banga’s first choice, at least for workers new to a company. ‘It’s really hard to get to know people and [establish] networks that enable you to be more successful and productive,’ he said. ‘Humans are social beings. And what makes us richer is the ability to touch, feel, interact, hug, and cry together, and be happy together and share successes and failures.’
On that point, Banga is one in a vast string of executives to insist upon the importance of in-person work. But he’s one of relatively few to wholeheartedly acknowledges the reverse. ‘Clearly people are crying out for flexibility in their working lives right now,’ he added. ‘The ability to understand the need for that flexibility, but then to not flip over to, ‘therefore let’s just do it all digitally,’ that to me is a balance.’
Banga said failing to execute on that balance would lead to an unequal work environment for people who prefer to work remotely more often—disproportionately caregivers, women, and people of color.” -Fortune, Ibid.
Does Corpo America really care about DEI initiatives or is it all just fodder for social media, ad campaigns, and the marketing department? What do you think? If the boss creates an RTO edict à la Lord Elon and you’re in a child care desert, you don’t want to go back to microaggressions and racism in the office, etc., I’m gonna take a big guess that Corpo America is not gonna care. (And hopefully you have developed an RTO Survival Plan to deal with this.)
Also – if people do too much touching and hugging in the office, someone is going to HR and might be fired. Saying RTO is necessary for hugs and touches is creepy AF.
“‘Proximity bias is real,’ Katherine Goldstein, host of motherhood podcast Double Shift, told Fortune last year. ‘People already judge mothers as being less committed to their work, so there is a sense that hybrid or remote work could really create an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality in terms of both promotions and also in terms of layoffs.’
Plus, Goldstein added, absent personal connections with workers they don’t see every day, bosses may have an easier time carrying out layoffs. Or, in a longer-term setting, doling out promotions.” -Fortune, Ibid.
Fair points. All of this makes sense. Again, I want to ask you: do you think Corpo America cares? Do you think they care about working moms and doing away with proximity bias? I mean . . . what does the evidence suggest to you?
“‘When the four people next to you in the office everyday are men, and the two women don’t come in, when the time for a promotion comes, you’ll naturally gravitate to one of the men,’ Banga said.” -Fortune, Ibid.
Banga’s own quote should tell you what you need to know.
“He encourages what most experts do about sustainable hybrid work: two or so designated office days, ideally organized so whole teams are there at once. There’s little to gain from mandating people to return to an office just to log onto Zooms all day—especially because of how resentful those employees would be about feeling forced to show.” -Fortune, Ibid.
I’ve also warned you repeatedly that IMO, hybrid is a stop-gap. It’s like the analogy of the frog in the boiling water. Or the idea that you fence a wild animal by creating the fence one side at a time so by the time the fence is finished, the animal doesn’t even realize what you’ve done until it’s too late. Hybrid is going to transition from 2 days on-site to 3 to 4 to, “Aw, hell. Just c’mon back.” Wait and see! Some companies may allow a 4 day workweek or allow the peons to WFH on Friday as a puppy treat, but I truly believe a lot of firms will use hybrid as a stepping stone to full RTO. As this article points out, “There’s little to gain from mandating people to return to an office just to log onto Zooms all day—especially because of how resentful those employees would be about feeling forced to show.” So rather than overtly foment resentment, just slowly fence the serfs in so they won’t rebel.
Welcome to 2023.