Tag: The Economist (page 1 of 3)

Meetings and work theatre

The way that you do something is almost as important as what you do. However, I’ve definitely noticed that, during the pandemic as people get used to working remotely (as I’ve done for a decade now) there’s definitely been some, let’s say, ‘theatre’ added to it all.

Meetings, the office’s answer to the theatre, have proliferated. They are harder to avoid now that invitations must be responded to and diaries are public. Even if you don’t say anything, cameras make meetings into a miming performance: an attentive expression and occasional nodding now count as a form of work. The chat function is a new way to project yourself. Satya Nadella, the boss of Microsoft, says that comments in chat help him to meet colleagues he would not otherwise hear from. Maybe so, but that is an irresistible incentive to pose questions that do not need answering and offer observations that are not worth making.

Shared documents and messaging channels are also playgrounds of performativity. Colleagues can leave public comments in documents, and in the process notify their authors that something approximating work has been done. They can start new channels and invite anyone in; when no one uses them, they can archive them again and appear efficient. By assigning tasks to people or tagging them in a conversation, they can cast long shadows of faux-industriousness. It is telling that one recent research study found that members of high-performing teams are more likely to speak to each other on the phone, the very opposite of public communication.

Performative celebration is another hallmark of the pandemic. Once one person has reacted to a message with a clapping emoji, others are likely to join in until a virtual ovation is under way. At least emojis are fun. The arrival of a round-robin email announcing a promotion is as welcome as a rifle shot in an avalanche zone. Someone responds with congratulations, and then another recipient adds their own well wishes. As more people pile in, pressure builds on the non-responders to reply as well. Within minutes colleagues are telling someone they have never met in person how richly they deserve their new job.

Source: The rise of performative work | The Economist

Who wants a metaverse created by Facebook?


Facebook is nearing a reputational point of no return. Even when it set out plausible responses to Ms Haugen, people no longer wanted to hear. The firm risks joining the ranks of corporate untouchables like big tobacco. If that idea takes hold, Facebook risks losing its young, liberal staff. Even if its ageing customers stick with the social network, Facebook has bigger ambitions that could be foiled if public opinion continues to curdle. Who wants a metaverse created by Facebook? Perhaps as many people as would like their health care provided by Philip Morris.

Source: Facebook is nearing a reputational point of no return | The Economist

Remote workers clock up more hours, says one study

It takes time and/or training to transition fully to remote working. If it’s not something you’ve chosen (say, because of the pandemic) then that’s doubly-problematic.

really enjoy working remotely. I miss travelling for events and meetups, which I used to do probably 10-15 times per year, but the actual working from home part is great. As I type this I’m in my running stuff waiting for the Tesco delivery. Work happens around life, rather than the other way round.

This article talks about one study, which I don’t think is illustrative of the wider picture. What I do recognise, however, is the temptation to work more hours when you live in your workplace. You have to be strict.

Ultimately, it comes down to control. If you’re in control of your time, then eventually you spend it productively. For example, I work fewer than 30 hours per week in an average week, mainly because I don’t attend meetings I don’t have to.

Early surveys of employees and employers found that remote work did not reduce productivity. But a new study* of more than 10,000 employees at an Asian technology company between April 2019 and August 2020 paints a different picture. The firm uses software installed on employees’ computers that tracked which applications or websites were active, and whether the employee was using the keyboard or a mouse. (Shopping online didn’t count.)

The research certainly concluded that the employees were working hard. Total hours worked were 30% higher than before the pandemic, including an 18% increase in working outside normal hours. But this extra effort did not translate into any rise in output. This may explain the earlier survey evidence; both employers and employees felt they were producing as much as before. But the correct way to measure productivity is output per working hour. With all that extra time on the job, this fell by 20%.

Source: Remote workers work longer, not more efficiently | The Economist