Wednesday 2 December 2020

Sheena Easton Sings

 Do you remember this? The song "My Baby Takes the Morning Train" Released in 1981 it sings to a time that doesn't exist anymore and some of you might give a resounding "Good!" in reply.

But there's a but. The song speaks to some pretty much embedded assumptions about work, life leisure and relationships-a sort of musical cultural folklore, one that has continued to speak to our expectations and assumptions and I'm going to suggest that for many, its narrative continues to do so

There have been changes, of course there have and I'm going to suggest that the political/cultural shifts we've seen are about to be diminished by the impacts of the Covid 19 Pandemic and what it might mean for us, the way we live, the way we work.

I wanted to find out about the WFH (Working from home) experience and made a few 'phone calls to have a chat with people known to me for some time. I've taken a few themes form those conversations and have brought them together here

  • "Last March and before lockdown, people were pretty sure that radical change was on its way 

  • The manner in which leaders and managers communicated their expectations regarding distribution of work and leading on regular “health checks” (emotional well-being as distinct from “supervision”), has had a significant impact on morale and connectivity 


  • Working from home positives 

      • Help with child-care 
      • Able to concentrate on tasks-a distraction free environment 
      • Ability to structure working day to include “well-being breaks” 
      • No time “lost to commutes” 
      • Making a contribution to reduced carbon emissions 
      • Out of the day to day presence of unduly aggressive managers 


  • Working from home negatives 

      • Work is my only escape from loneliness 
      • Challenging home relationships 
      • Pre existing conditions have re-emerged as a result of Lockdown & Working from Home 
      • Health concerns for relatives 
      • “Zoomed Out” demanding meeting schedules 
      • Absence of work based social contact 
      • Absence of work-based learning/development opportunities 
      • A keenly felt absence of informal, work related conversations and connectivity 
      • Email misunderstandings 


Some conversations considered the opportunities presented to us by the prolonged gap in day-to-day workplace attendance. The layout of working environments and how we organise ourselves in high intensity workspaces, discussion spaces and recreational zones. Are we able to look at the opportunities to reconsider design, taking into account the potential for a reduction in the number of people present in the workplace at any one time? 

I'm interested in how "true and real" the above is. It's important-today I have learned that Unilever are trialling a 4 day working week in New Zealand-"Wellness matters! Yet when I look at the above list, there are significant shouts that tell me that things are not well and we need to start to build an alternative story about work, our expectations and its relationship with life in its broadest meaning.

I'm happy to extend this conversation and work with those who would like to find out more about their teams' expectations, hopes and fears.

Sheena Easton's song might now describe a piece of history we're happy to leave behind but we need to consider the spaces we're creating and the assumptions that inform them. I fear we are in danger of a reaction that reinforces messages we should refuse to revisit, we need to come up with another story!

Please note-I have nothing against Sheena, she worked with Prince, you don't get there by accident!

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