With schools and universities shut courtesy the pandemic, institutions have been forced to move all of their education to the internet.
Work from home has not just hit the working class but also students who have to now adapt to new ways of learning. The internet is filled with articles, debates, discussions and blogs around student and adult learning. I see not much being either written about – focusing on the teachers. They are the one’s who got affected the most by this endless lockdown. They were the one’s who had to wake up one morning and rethink their entire teaching methods and not just move them online but make it as effective as contact classes. Not to forget the intense scrutiny they are being put through, what with parents hovering around each online session and even turning themselves into students. I spoke to many teachers and have seen the stress they are being put to.
Lack of necessary skill sets to move their classes online, minimal support from their institution, bandwidth and technology related challenges are a few among the many challenges they have to face.
We mustn’t forget, even they have a family.
This post is a shout out to all the teachers who are along with the health care professionals and others in the frontline. They too are our ‘Covid-19 Warriors’ who are not being spoken of much.
There are no two ways – teaching is demanding. We’re counting on our teachers to shape and transform our next generation, but we pay them pittance. I see that all others are being paid special allowances to work extra during the pandemic, but not the teachers. In fact teachers are the last in the list of priorities when we talk about increased pay. On one hand when parents want student fee to be waived off and institutions under increasing stress to sustain business, teacher salary takes the first hit.
The value of ‘experience’ cannot be understated. In this day and age of instant information sharing using digital media, more and more people are being driven purely by knowledge and are living their life based on the information they receive in plenty on a daily basis. There is no validation whatsoever of the information being downloaded and people seem to be simply trusting whatever is coming their way. Especially so in the case of ‘health’ related information. People seem to be taking most of the information on health which comes to them on face value and becoming victims of misinformation.
Even ‘education’ has become more of theory than practice. In the quest for churning out ‘literacy’ rates, it’s become more an assembly line production of degree holders who have no idea whatsoever of the practicality of some of the
knowledge which they have gained. This is amply evident even in the highly ‘knowledge’ and ‘analytic’ driven equity markets. The so called high profile executive fresh out of college, armed with degrees have fallen flat in the highly volatile world of the stock markets. Even today, you find that the good old traders with hands-on experience make a lot of money.
In hiring new managers (today’s fad phrase – leaders), companies were enthusiastic to get bright minds (educationally) laterally into the system and made them to lead teams of highly experienced professionals – who had been there; done that. The result – a complete lack of ‘credibility’ and ‘authenticity’ in their leadership. They find it hard to gain the respect of people who they lead.
The reason is plain and simple – ‘Experience’.
Chanakya in his ‘Arthashastra’ clearly states that there is no use of knowledge if it is not backed with experience. It turns into poison.
It is time that we gave importance and respect to experience in all fields. Because ‘experience’ it is that brings high level of ‘credibility’ and ‘authenticity’ in who you are.
This post is an outcome of an incident from the recent past.
A friend of mine had put in his papers after years of work in a company which quite didn’t value his contributions. For him it reached a tipping point after delivering results year on year, his promotion was always kept in abeyance and the increments were as he wished to call it “pittance”. Call it office politics if you may.
He got a great offer from another company which was willing to pay twice as much for his expertise with a position which matched his expectations.
The MD of current employer then had a 1:1 with him and understood his position, claiming that he was ignorant of the injustice meted out to him and blah! blah! and made a counter-offer which not just matched the offer from the competitor but also gave him a position. Assuring him that the mistakes of the past will be corrected and stating how much the organization values his contribution.
The poor guy fell for this game of great ‘deception’ and rejected the offer he got from the competitor. I call this deception as after about 6 months he was fired from his job for non-performance and also alleging that he has passed on sensitive information about the organization to the competitor during his interactions with them.
Now he is jobless for the last 6 months and feeling depressed over this alleged deceit. He had found out that they had only bought time to groom another understudy before letting this guy go.
I realized that this is not an isolated incident. I’ve been myself through these games of deceit attempted on me in the past. Fortunately, I didn’t succumb. I stuck to my guns when such counter-offers came. My point was if they felt that I was worth the offer being made after I put in my papers, why didn’t they do that before? Once you have put in your papers, mentally you have switched off and have already carried a lot of baggage which is difficult to offload easily. Plus the additional factor that many organizational leaders do not like the fact that you are going on your terms. There point is “how dare he go on his terms? It’s me who decides the terms of employment and severance as well” It’s an ‘ego’ trip.
Such employers also trouble you post leaving your job by delaying paperwork, amounts due etc., in one pretext or the other. There are plenty around in this world.
Have you been a victim of such ‘deceit’? How would you respond to a counter-offer?
What would you do if you are suckered into staying?
I was having a counseling session with one of the employees in my client organization and this is what he had to say about why he feels highly stressed at work.
“My boss keeps giving me assurances about a possible raise based on my performance and when I take up the issue with him he refuses to acknowledge that he ever made such an assurance”
“I don’t know how harder I need to work to prove myself?” “He seems to ignore me in meetings and refuses to give any space for me to air my views” When I confront him, he says that it was never his intent to hurt me and he likes the way I work. When I ask him to clarify as to what he expects from me at work, he says I am doing fine and if there is anything he will let me know.
“I have started to feel incompetent as all my attempts to improve my situations are to no avail”
I could clearly see a case of ‘gas lighting’ by the boss here. A kind of emotional abuse by making a fellow team member get into self-doubt and despair.
I’ve found that this is the beginning of workplace related depression in people and the worst is that it all looks normal and nothing to be too worked up about.
Gas lighting can happen in any relationship, between co-workers, partners, family, in school and other social setting.
Have you been a victim of ‘gas lighting’? How did you recognize and deal with it?
With an increasingly connected digital world, the demand for ‘work from home’ options are also increasing. The belief that it provides your employees a chance at good ‘work-life’ balance and can improve productivity is sometimes stretched too far. I’ve seen employees literally fighting for such options and also take it as a status symbol if they operate in this fashion. They brag about it not just in office but also to their friends and family. Does it really help?
Here is my take on factors which have a negative influence of a work from home culture. This after working and running a business from home for over 3 decades…
Affects Work-life balance – Actually your work-life balance can get adversely affected if you ‘work from home’ often. Those who have experienced this will find it hard to admit that the ‘myth’ that you will have more time for your family is totally false. In fact when you work from home, what you have done is carried your work home literally. Is that not what you were trying to avoid as it was coming in the way of your work life balance? There is a feeling in organizations that since you have been provided the ‘privilege’ you are always available to connect and discuss business. It ends up more a 24 hr. job with frequent interruptions (mistaken for breaks). It’s not just your employer but your family starts to feel that you are always available to spend time with them and for their needs. You end up getting stretched from both sides.
Affects Trust – While the work from home option demonstrates the organizations trust in the employee it at times becomes counterproductive. Managers start suspecting whether or not the employee is putting in 100% effort at home. There is a thought which lingers in the minds of the people who are at office about the quality of time spent by the homers on work related aspects. Myself and my business partner having over 3 decades of friendship and partnership have at times suspected each other of not spending enough time on business.
Affects Team camaraderie – When you do not meet people regularly and connect with them only via the digital world, the emotional engagement is missed. Conversations become more cryptic and to the point and you are always talking business. We all know that bonding happens in informal settings and non-business discussions amongst people. That’s why you find many organizations going for team outings to enhance employee engagement. While it helps to an extent but being a formally organized event does not have the necessary impact. It also cannot be a once or twice in a year event. Building bonds and relationships does not happen this way, it’s a long process and a continual one at that. And where do you think this is possible? – at workplace ofcourse!
Affects Motivation – It’s not easy to be self-motivated while it is a great thing to talk about. When you get to see is when you feel pumped up. This is the psychology from early childhood. Haven’t you found yourself wanting to get or desire something when you see others having it? When you see people enjoying, talking, being recognized, sharing in person it makes a hell a lot of difference. You feel motivated to be a part of the groups. It’s like the child sitting on the sidelines watching a group of children play and after sometime it is automatic that his motivation to jump into the play increases. No one likes to be on the sideline! Being alone at home can get on to your nerves like solitary confinement.
Affects Home – It’s no one’s fault and it’s not on purpose. Being home leads to feeling obligated to do more household chores because you’re “technically” home (as in, you’re physically in the house).
It starts with little things, like that Plumber who’s supposed to stop by between 1-5PM or the Courier which is to arrive at 11AM. It’s not a huge imposition, you’re already home. So, of course, you’ll be the point person on that task. Before you realize, you’re the point person for everything – finishing up what’s left of the dishes, being available for package deliveries, and (worst of all) being the babysitter when your child’s school declares a holiday on account of rain. Most of us don’t even realize this lopsided division of labor happening until it’s too late. Being an entrepreneur myself I can vouch for the fact that it becomes increasingly difficult for you to refuse at home. Your attempts at being assertive can be seen as non-cooperative and at times insensitive leading to relationship issues.
Affects Perception – I myself have been a victim of the perception that I am jobless and at home doing nothing. Many are still not able to comprehend that you can earn even working from home. The societal conditioning that you have to go someplace to work and spend may be 10 -12 hrs. really is at the bottom of such perceptions. People tend to take you for granted and load you with chores as they perceive that you don’t have any work and all the time in the world. They start to get on to your nerves after a point.
Interruptions – They are already one of the top reasons effecting time management at work, at home it gets multiplied many times over. Getting by the day without interruptions will be rare. People may unintentionally walk-in while you are on a call or trying to gesticulate while you are on a call effecting your concentration. We know how difficult it is to get back on track after you have derailed at work. Such derailments happen quite frequently at home as people at home are not bound by official rules of engagement. They feel that it is rightful of them to interrupt you at any time. Children may interrupt you at work as they find that you are always available at home. While many choose this option to take care of their children, they end up scolding them for frequently coming in the way of work. You will start to feel that you were better off at work than at home.
Procrastination – Work from home can lead to an increasing challenge of prioritization between the urgent and important. With frequent compromises being made and priorities shifting based on urgency, there may be a tendency to postpone work to the extent that you end up working late hours to make up for lost time.
Complacency – Since no one is observing you, the tendency to become complacent is very high. In the office you cannot laze around for long durations doing nothing, while this is not the case at home. This can negatively impact your productivity. All of us require a little bit of monitoring and control to help us stay on course.
There may be many more, but ‘work from home’ can lead to people violating your boundaries, and assuming that you are a hobbyist. Organizations must seriously consider whether it is really helping them. I’ve seen organizations struggling to revert to old ways of working after they realize that the work from home concept is not paying as much dividends as they expected. They are faced with resistance not just from the people who have already got into the comfort of working from home but also from the people who expect the ‘privilege’ sometime in the future.
You are exhausted. When you get home, you drop your work bag and realize you forgot to send an e-mail to your supervisor about an upcoming project. You grit your teeth as you run to pick up your laptop.
The clock says 8:00 p.m. and you feel like you haven’t had a minute to yourself since this morning. As you think about your day, you realize, you haven’t!
It is your company’s busy season so the last few days have been packed with meetings and an upcoming, with a Friday project deadline. You send the e-mail, make a two-minute noodle for dinner, and sit back down at your computer. You plan to get a few more things done on the project before leaving for work tomorrow morning. As you work, you receive text messages from your boss who is wanting to know some updates on the project. You answer the texts and think about checking Facebook but decide against it as you just have too much to do.
You have a status update meeting first thing in the morning and you want to be able to show considerable progress on the project. At 10:30 p.m., you shut your computer, go to bed, and have a hard time falling asleep because you are thinking about everything you need to finish this week.
Does this sound like someone you know? Many people today are struggling with the ability to manage time with so much work to do and personal/ family lives to manage. Technology has certainly made working longer hours easier, as we are always in touch with the office. What we can tend to forget is the importance of managing our stress levels so we can function more effectively.
In this situation, having no free time during the day may work for a few days but isn’t a healthy long-term solution.
If you have often found yourself feeling this way, it’s high time you paused; took a deep breath and look at managing your time and stress.
In the rush to meet your deadlines – you may end up ‘dead’ at the end of the line.