I haven’t been writing. I’ve wanted to, but I’ve been deep in a trough of not knowing. It feels pretty awful, but I’ve been here before and I know the drill. I have to keep going and eventually I’ll come out the other side.
Writing on the internet, even if it’s just a blog, or a tweet, seems to favour the certain. Or at least it can feel that way. When I’m in the trough of not knowing, I can vaguely remember being certain, the same way I remember summer when it’s mid-February. It’s a warm pleasant memory and I can’t wait for it to return. Until then, I have to fight the convincing belief that everyone already knows everything, except for me.
Like a lot of people, I just read ‘How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation’, an article by Anne Helen Petersen. If you haven’t read it yet I urge you to do so. It’s excellent and touches on a web of issues facing today’s workforce. While ostensibly about the conditions that make millennial burnout so likely and prevalent, I suspect many people (of all ages) will see some aspects of their lives reflected in Petersen’s words.
The article intersected with a few other things this week. One was a Twitter conversation I got into this weekend about Shadow Work. In her article, Petersen names the feeling of profound inertia she has about some of the mundane maintenance tasks of living “errand paralysis’.
I was at SHRM’s Annual Conference in Chicago last week, speaking about how HR can support effective remote work. I’ve given different versions of this talk in a few contexts, but one of my core messages is always that remote work (in any form, be it fully remote teams or roles, or a ‘work from home’ policy) cannot succeed if it is layered over a low-trust work environment.
When I speak about this topic, I share a few symptoms of low-trust as it relates to remote work, and one of them is an organization in which managers are free to treat ‘work from home’ as a reward, rather than understanding and applying a clearly defined business reason for committing to remote work/’work from home’ as an organization.
This week’s Google Duplex demo raised important and provocative ethical questions about human-machine interactions. It also offered a glimmer of hope that the long-ago promise that technology would free us from mental and physical grunt work to enjoy lives of leisure might yet live.
The work that Duplex would do, book appointments, schedule reservations, is work that, to date, most of us have done for ourselves.
It’s called shadow work, and it’s become so ubiquitous that we barely notice it anymore. Our collective anxieties about automation and AI make it easy to overlook the less dramatic ways that work is being shifted away from workers.
Last Monday I was part of a panel at an event titled “Keeping HR Human in a Digital World”. It was a great panel with diverse viewpoints and experience, and a lively audience that stuck around to ask questions and chat.
A question that wasn’t asked, but maybe should have been is:
“What do we even mean by ‘digital’?”
Certainly we all know the literal meaning of ‘digital’, and based on the discussion at this event, we definitely get that a digital world means one with lots of technology…but how is that different than last year, or 5 years ago, or even 10?
When I joined Actionable at the beginning of this year I had never worked remotely, aside from the odd day over the years when I worked from home to spare my colleagues from a particularly vicious cold. I’d worked in organizations with remote workers, and had handled plenty of HR challenges and questions related to those arrangements, but I’d never experienced it first hand. Joining a fully remote, distributed organization was daunting: it meant that I needed to figure out how to work remotely for myself, while also understanding the particular needs of a remote and distributed team.
This week I noticed an eye-catching stat making the rounds again. You’ve likely seen it as well:
“65% of today’s elementary school students will do jobs that do not yet exist”
Although it sounds believable, the claim is actually quite suspect. You can read a thoughtful tale of its history and context in this excellent essay from Benjamin Doxtdator: ‘A Field Guide to ‘jobs that don’t exist yet’’.
The underlying message this stat conveys is that education is failing to prepare our next generation for the economy of tomorrow. And hey, don’t we already have a digital skills gap?
The perils and promise we imagine the future to hold are like a mirage on the horizon, reflecting a time that never really arrives. It is the perfect canvas for us to project our hopes and fears onto, always ahead, ominous or inviting.
The result is that we fail to attend to the present and our recent past, and the clues they might offer to validate or diminish our fears and hopes.
On Thursday evening, I had a great time (after pushing through a moderate amount of terror) speaking at DisruptHR Toronto
When several of the smartest people in your network all tell you to do the same thing...well, you do it. Which is how I found myself in Phoenix, Arizona this week at WorkHuman 2017