remote working

  • Proximity bias

    The Great Lurch Forward into hybrid working reality has brought with it a whole host of new words and phrases to learn. One of the most interesting is ‘proximity bias’.

    This is the notion that managers will reward those workers closest to them. In other words, the ones that show up in the office most often.

    At your desk by 9 o’clock

    The fear of proximity bias in working relations is obviously based on the most obvious of office culture truisms: that managers like to see bums on seats and are inherently suspicious of remote working.

    But while this is no doubt true of many managers, there is perhaps a deeper and more tenacious psychological element involved here. That of being human.

    Nice to see you

    Most managers care about the well-being of their staff. They genuinely want to facilitate good lives for them and arrange their work days to suit the pressures of their lives.

    But it’s only human to feel closest to someone who you have actual physical contact with over someone you only see on a screen. This bias is surely a natural human response?

    What are you worth?

    The difficulty for companies is that studies suggest a remote worker is often more productive than an office-based one. Which means that the real value of the physical staff member is in boosting office morale and ‘company culture’, as it is known.

    The problem here is that company culture is a much harder KPI (key performance indicator) to attribute to an individual worker than is their productivity level.

    There has been much talk of the two-tier workforce, of less pay for remote workers. But the more subtle realities of proximity bias will likely continue, loath though companies will be to acknowledge it.

    If you don’t come to the office, the robots will – it’s Us versus AI

  • Slow wit

    Photo by Chris Montgomery

    One of the unsung boons of the fast-forward into remote working has been the rise in slow wit, or the ability to be funny at a more leisurely pace.

    If, like me, you’re one of those people who is really, really funny in their own head, this new way of working is a godsend. All those one-liners you never quite got out now stand a fighting chance.

    A cracking lag

    The beauty is in the technology. Nearly anyone can be witty in the Teams chat function, since you have hours to polish and refine your repartee. But it’s in meetings that your standup routine can shine.

    Video chat in a largish group offers so much mileage. It’s all in the lag. You know that if a reply is too quick, it’ll simply get caught up in static. No one’ll hear it. Your brilliance will go to waste.

    And so, slow wit is born. When someone requires a response, you can hold your tongue a moment. Make a silly face. Unmute yourself. Wait until all static has subsided. Drumroll. One-liner. Gold.

    West Country bons mots

    The new slow wit reality isn’t all roses for everyone. I feel for almost the entire Irish and Jewish peoples, naturally. But I hail from the farms of the English West Country.

    Now, as any rapier-witted Glaswegian or Londoner will tell you, the English West Country is known for its pace. Those West Country farmers, they know their way around a joke, and no mistake.

    Want more slow wit? Try talking to a three-year-old

  • The office is a luxury now

    Photo by Carl Heyerdahl

    The reality of the post-COVID world is that going to the office has become a luxury you do when you’ve got time on your hands. 

    When deadlines loom, going to the office to chat to people, have a social lunch, spend time away from the family, goes out the window. 

    On those days you stay home, strapped to your laptop, and get it all done, using all the methods that worked at the click of a button for the last two years.

    And when the work slacks off, you think, hell, I’m going to have a day at the office – to unwind. 

    OOO gets shit done

    As a freelancer, I’ve been saying this for years. Out of office work is much more effective – more focused and more productive (at least in my line of work). 

    Of course, this isn’t how most companies see it. They believe that offices work to create dynamic, productive workforces. After all, they’ve spent a century getting used to the slack that office life entails, and factored it in. 

    The managers in charge of these traditional systems don’t want a revolution, ‘cos revolutions are dangerous things.

    But the fact remains, however uncomfortable. If you need to get shit done effectively, staying home and starting up your VPN and Teams channel is the way to go.

    How about thinking about a New School Way To Work?