Tracee knows her rights and is prepared to lay in bed and do nothing to fight for them. She is quite the duvet warrior, is our Trace; having joined inaction workshops and laid down in front of London traffic (sometimes just for a nap), she is preparing to confront Neil tomorrow morning (Monday 6 September) and demand the right to get paid for staying at home.
It's a bit odd, the place we have reached in the evolution of our working society. Most of us have have taken on board the precept 'working from home', replacing power dressing for pyjamas and a decent shirt, but no-one seems to be talking about 'working at work'. If they have dared to whisper it, they have prepared their muscles for a defensive recoil reflex, for fear of being told they are 'bullies', or 'using their power to force people to act against their will'. Is this part of a power shift between employer and employee? Is the counter-argument 'Covid' or 'convenience'?
In the NTI newsroom we have seen the news headline, "PwC tells new recruits to choose their working hours". However, this is not a headline from today or last week, it is from August 2018, more than a year before anyone had heard of either Wuhan or pangolins. Now we hear that PwC are taking on 3,000 new recruits globally and are insisting they report for duty ... at work. It would seem odd, wouldn't it, starting your new job as a trainee auditor and staying at home to help your Dad bring the shopping in from the car? It seems that PwC consider the place for its new people to be is at work, and there is sympathy for their position.
Young professionals need to learn that networking is about more than tying up with Ferocious 378Grr, who is playing Call of Duty: Warzone at the same time as them, and chatting about the Big Berthas being found around Verdansk. It is about extending your current and unfledged skill set, putting yourself out there and talking to real people; people you will meet again and again over the course of your career and who will help design your future.
Millennials know this includes relationships with people you don't particularly like and appear to have nothing in common with, who will stretch the patience and hardly developed interpersonal skills of Generation Z. Moments like these offer collaboration opportunities, new ideas, confrontation with other points of view and friendships out of nowhere, extending new adults beyond their version of 'cool' and an untried comfort zone. Work friends will evolve faster than old school and uni mates, because the new them will have more in common with what is happening in their expanding lives than those who spend their days doing other things; colleagues share buzzwords, a suspicion of common foes in and around the business and an understanding of the things they should do to survive and flourish in a whole new environment.
People need to re-learn that it is much easier to read people's emotions face-to-face if they share a country or even a corridor with them. There is also the truism that if you are 'at work' you can leave it at a certain time (often with others who are 'at work' with you) and sometimes share a glass or a cup with those who had as bad a day, courtesy of your employers, as you did. At home, the work environment doesn't stop. It just changes rooms and expands to fill your life.
We even have words for this; 'segmenters' are those who are good at devoting their lives to a situation or a project, being more able to switch off. 'Intergrators' are those who find it difficult to move from one part of their lives to another. The latter also, apparently, outnumber the former by 5:1. Unhealthy or what?
The impetus must be on employers to entice and engage with post-Coviders (our phrase, which we are trialling, as we think it describes, well ... you). The successful businesses of the future will win the 'fight for talent' by offering better working environments with up-to-the-second technology to attract the digital generation. Employees demand cool environments, with safe spaces and flexible work patterns that match life outside the office and beat it for the 'wow factor'. They will offer the food, drink, light, space, pliability and ready information the world offers.
Working environments have to beat the pants of home, seducing not commanding people back to the work place and if you are in charge of this, you need to think about it. Soon. We are trying to get Neil to think about it now, but he is unavailable - working from home.