Thursday of last week I wrote a ‘Viewpoint’ column in this newspaper where upon I rather pompously intoned that the current pandemic could well make a huge difference in terms of how, and - perhaps more importantly, where - people will work from in the future. Evidence both here and in other countries has suggested that many people will be working from home, long after (hopefully!) Covid-19 is just an unpleasant memory. This thought, got me thinking about office life, past, present and future. However, my former office-bound working life ended abruptly twenty years ago when I arrived on these shores and since then I am informed by those who know about these things that ‘work’ has changed a lot!
Nevertheless, I suspect that modern office workers still have to say - yes sir, no sir, to some immature twerp as they struggle up the greasy pole of blind ambition and corporate success. Happily, I no longer have to sit in on endless meetings about meetings, whereupon I’d usually lost the will to live within minutes of my arrival and be reduced to reading my cheque book stubs (I told you it was a long time ago!) to save my sanity.
At that time - and I understand that nothing much has changed in this regard, one of the best ways to impress colleagues was to utter mind-bogglingly stupid marketing-speak as if they were a gift from God.
However, I’m told by those who work in a similar environment to my own at that time, nothing much has changed in this regard, just that they talk rubbish online, instead of face-to-face. In fact I remember the day very clearly when a thrustful colleague first announced to the rest of us - “We have to think outside the box” I was tempted to smack him in the mouth even then. If that wasn’t bad enough, a list of meaningless and irritating corporate phrases are now de-rigour, in fact ‘Marketing’ magazine, has recently suggested that these clunky sayings have ballooned to such an extent that - “Nobody knows what anyone is on about anymore.” Indeed it is said that - “…meetings have degenerated into a competitive exercise in of verbal piffle.” So here goes - “Let’s not boil the ocean” is supposed to be a way of suggesting that something is too ambitious or complicated. Next up might be - “Let’s socialise” or “Let’s cascade this” which basically means let’s discuss with colleagues an upcoming project.
So why don’t they just say so? I have to say that I have a particular favourite corporate buzzword at the moment, which is both unpleasant and puerile all at the same time - it is, “Punching the puppy”. This apparently indicates taking an unpopular business decision and also made me laugh for all the wrong reasons. So now you know!
ZOOMING IN ON ZOOM
I would imagine that - ‘Zoom’ meetings are far different from the grindingly dull affairs of the pre-pandemic era. However, in my limited experience of this form of communication, it appears very hard for some to actually look engaged or interested in anything other what they have just said - or, are about to say. Furthermore, it seems that home libraries have been re-stocked to show how well read and erudite folk are - so, no more bodice-rippers on those all revealing bookshelves, just a sprinkling of Hilary Mantel and Philip Roth to show one’s intellectual leanings. To best describe just how far the workplace has come in just a few shorts months because of changing working elements beyond an employers control, I will describe my nephews current workplace situation. This young man was successful in applying for a managerial job in a large government agency. He was appointed to his new position in March, but he had to work out his ‘notice’ until early May this year. In that time, although he has worked from home completing his contract with his previous employer and since early May he has been working in his new job. He tells me that he hasn’t spent a single day in the offices of his new employer - yet, has worked full-time from home since the commencement of his contract. For someone of my generation, that is almost unbelievable when you have a corporate mindset that ended twenty years ago. In short - work and the workplace is a very different concept from what it was - and yet, the fruits of that work still have to realised and delivered as before.
A ‘NON-WORK’ ENVIRONMENT
Personally, I am not sure if I could work in a ‘non-work’ environment; although as a freelance journalist I guess that I’ve been doing that for years. Nevertheless, as an old fashioned soul, I wonder if workers nowadays miss the camaraderie of office life? - although from friends in the UK I understand that is very different from yesteryear. For instance, how many modern workers go out for a ‘few pints’ of a lunchtime?
My son reckons that could get you the sack nowadays - blimey! Furthermore, he also tells me that even in the days when people occasionally visited an office in a city centre - a worker dating another worker was/is frowned upon and in some employment contracts the practice is forbidden. Really? Well, it seems that the workplace for many people is an ever changing concept. However, perhaps we should never forget that there are still many millions of people who work outside of an office environment and perhaps their workplace experience is basically no different than it would have been generations ago. I quite like that!