In September, the New York Times published an essay entitled “The Future of Work Should Mean Working Less.” Quotations were sprinkled throughout from people, all beginning with the phrase “I am never going back to…”
“I am never going back to being the last parent to pick my child up from school.”
“I am never going back to angry commute podcast listening.”
“I am never going back to frantically trying to get it all done on artificial timelines.”
As I’ve written before, people are fed up with work. The pandemic opened the door for a “great awakening”: work can be terrible — but it doesn’t have to be this way. People don’t have to tolerate being micromanaged, stressed, and forced to work from specific locations or during specific hours. There are companies that embrace work-life balance and flexibility.
My own perceptions of work changed over the years. I began as the only remote employee within a company 16 years ago, determined to prove that I was working just as hard as anyone in the office. Six years later, the company went fully remote. In 2021, I began working with fully distributed, global teams.
And throughout all of this, including my own participation in The Great Resignation, I have reflected on what is important in my career. My own set of “I’m never going back” resolutions, so to speak. The beauty of this movement is that people can set their terms and find a company that aligns with their values.
I am never going back to traditional work.
I’ve been a remote employee for far too long ever to want to return to an office. I enjoy being at home far too much — I can do household tasks between meetings, wearing comfortable clothes, no commute.
For more than ten years, my remote work has also been flexible (they’re not always the same). My days aren’t boxed into rigid hours; start and stop times are fluid.
I believe that everyone is entitled to flexible work, including remote work, if they choose. If people like going into an office and choose to do so, that’s one thing. But everyone should have the freedom to determine when, where, and how they work best.
I am never going back to feeling undervalued.
Some companies have the mentality that anyone can be replaced, and there is no need to focus on keeping employees happy because new employees could always be found. Work is reduced to outputs rather than knowledge or skill. The needs of the company are prioritized over people.
It’s very dehumanizing to feel that ideas don’t matter. It’s also frustrating that a reward for hard work is more work — that a workday turns into hours, and if responsibilities are complete early, there are more “hours” in the day to spend doing something else.
People should feel confident in their contributions — from measurable results to soft skills. The Great Resignation has been a resounding rejection of companies that don’t value their employees. Employees have realized that take their talents elsewhere.
I am never going back to working with assholes.
I once started a new job and within a week thought to myself, “Wait, people are actually nice to each other here? On purpose?” So many companies tolerate awful behavior. Meetings can include screaming or belittling. Mind games, manipulation, and backstabbing are woven into company culture. Teams cannot collaborate effectively because there is constant friction.
The weight of this type of environment extends far beyond the day. I didn’t realize the personal toll it took on me until I left. Some companies prioritize kindness throughout the hiring process, and it results in teams that operate beautifully. Members of the team willingly help each other and celebrate personal and company wins.
Do I still face pressure at work? Sure — I still have goals and deadlines to meet. Do I spend my non-work hours stewing over the actions of or interactions with colleagues? Not anymore. Life’s too short to be filled with drama.
I am never going back to a company that puts the business above people.
Prioritizing company growth or profits over people is a recipe for disaster. It can lead to feelings of failure when targets are not met — even if those targets were not realistic in the first place. It can also lead to chasing new clients that are not a good fit or reduced quality of work, all in the name of Meeting That Goal.
It’s bad enough when companies outwardly admit that they prioritize company goals over people. It’s even worse when the company thinks they’re putting people first, but the reality is far different. It’s one thing to say, “Of course we’re here to support you!” when there is no structure to provide actual support.
Such environments often ignore real life — the outside circumstances that can often impact work. The message is, “Check your personal problems at the door. We’re only here to work.”
In the News: A 4-day workweek boosted revenue and morale
Chelsea Fagan, founder and CEO of The Financial Diet, implemented a 4-day workweek in July of 2021. Everyone works 32 hours, Monday through Thursday. In a tweet, Fagan said that the same work gets done, revenue increased, and everyone is happier. Plus, “three days is the minimum for a good weekend.”
Her tweet came in response to a New York Times article that featured a clothing retailer that moved to a 4-day workweek in May of 2020.
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