As a public servant, and similar to every other industry, there is a lot of speculation about what post-Covid workplaces will look like. Many of our operations can be done well-enough from home, and the challenges we have now are mostly about IT infrastructure, home office solutions, and privacy. Much of our work is digital and email-enabled, so it’s not a giant leap to work from home. We just traditionally haven’t done that transition for all the usual pressures related to remote workers and supervision/monitoring, and some unique pressures related to privacy, taxpayer dollars, and supporting Ministers in person.
Paul Taylor over at Governing.com wrote an article about five changes he sees coming to the public service post-Covid. Here’s an excerpt:
Your Cubicle. Our Conference Room. Where Did They Go? Your space may get bigger as facilities staff reconfigure space to conform with the 6-foot separation requirements. Coupled with limits on group size, that is likely to grow cubicle row into what were once conference rooms. … Beyond the Point of No Return. Social distancing is bound to spread employees across more square footage than agencies have to reconfigure to handle everybody at work. What’s more, as governments confront the need for budget cuts in the tens and hundreds of millions, the public-sector layoffs announced to date are likely to rise exponentially as the tax base shrinks. … The Grey Beard Dilemma. The Centers for Disease Control and other public health officials have cautioned since the beginning of the crisis that “Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.” That may provide some employees an excuse to leave public service early — or be the catalyst for difficult conversations with their managers about a mutually agreeable plan of when and how to transition.
He has two other points about masks and gloves + surveillance and testing, and I think it is way too premature to be estimating what those measures look like. One estimate of putting 100 people per floor into a 20 floor office building (with only 2 people per elevator to maintain distancing and assuming normal start times and the usual number of elevators per building) had it taking almost 3-4h to get everyone just to their desks. Exits would take the same although maybe a bit faster if some people take the elevator.
However, I agree that there will be a lot of discussions about rejigging floor spaces and decreasing common areas. I also think there will be much greater emphasis on giving people camera-enabled computes with full band-width capabilities (the Canadian federal government has had lots of laptops and tablets with cameras, but very little infrastructure to support video-calls from your desktop), and if you are meeting through computers, why not continue to work from home?
I’m less sold on the ruminations about layoffs in mass modes — there will be debts to pay off, guaranteed, but there will also be huge government programs to implement. It’s way too soon to make those estimates.
But as an ageing worker with diabetes, I fully agree about the complications going back to the office. I have zero interest in risking my life just to work in a cubicle. If I can do my work from home, I’m happy to do so. And if they offered some sort of buyout/medical early retirement option? I suspect I would be crunching the numbers to see if I could make it work.
Great article, even if I don’t fully agree with all his points.
I like the idea of ongoing change, and no better book exists in my view than Change: What Really Leads to Lasting Personal Transformation by Jeffrey A. Kottler (BR00118). I blogged about it extensively, but that doesn’t mean shorter pieces out there don’t catch my interest. Like this one from GetPocket although the original was Inc. This one takes the premise of “planning” your reinvention rather than settling for reacting to something and creating a spontaneous reinvention. It outlines some reactive ones (like a change in the market changing your business life), shifting businesses to a more sustainable model (although no reason that can’t apply to your personal life too), or a change in lifestyle (similar focus). However, the one I liked was the one the author called the “big Aha! moment” as a catalyst.
Many people waste years looking for a magic bullet and wallowing in their misery, I guess I wasn’t meant to do that. I remember as though it were yesterday, waking up one morning with absolute certainty that I would tender my resignation, change careers (although I had no idea to what), become a better person, grow spiritually, and become the best single parent possible. It was an evolution that took place over three years, and the journey continues, but I can say that I found happiness very quickly once I made the decision to change. The mere act of committing to change is the single biggest step you can take.
The last chapter of Jeffrey Kottler’s book, “Change”, was one of the ones I was most looking forward to reading — “Why Changes Don’t Often Last”. The sobering statistics are quite common in pop psych — the huge numbers of people who set New Year’s resolutions but abandon them before the first week is out (often from trying for perfection in “Just Do It” mode rather than incremental chain-growth like the Seinfeld method mentioned earlier), and that 80% of those who join gyms stop going after the first few visits even though they keep paying for membership for much longer (the illusion of still being committed that would be shattered by formally quitting their membership).
Oddly enough, I was quite surprised at the beginning of the chapter that those who study change don’t have a firm grasp of why it fails. First and foremost, those who are heavy at work in the change industry — like therapists or weightloss consultants — don’t know what happens after the patient reaches a goal. There is the pop psych results, such as the fact that almost all of the contestants on the weightloss show “The Biggest Loser” end up gaining all the weight back later. But there is no ongoing follow-up in most clinical or therapeutic settings. And thus no info on if the patient/client relapsed or slipped. Secondly, change is often not a “point in time” measurement but a journey, and thus is quite complex and difficult to measure quantitatively, particularly for a moving target. Thirdly, the results are demoralizing — huge numbers of relapses. So studying it isn’t very satisfying or helpful to clinical treatments.
Nevertheless, Kottler does have a rudimentary list in the headings of why change doesn’t last:
Limits of will…good intentions are not enough, and we don’t always have full control over our lives;
Unrealistic expectations or lousy goal-setting;
Dysfunctional beliefs…including defeatist attitudes, and, perhaps more importantly reasons NOT to change and stay stuck:
You feel justified in self-pity;
You can blame external factors or others for your problems;
You have an excuse not to do it;
You get sympathy;
No reward but no risk of change;
You can avoid addressing deeper issues;
You can be a jerk and blame your condition;
Put a little differently, “you can remain miserable on your own terms” [pg. 305]. It’s heavily about control of what is familiar vs. risking loss of control with trying something new. In other words, flat out fear.
But you also may lack support (or have others who are enabling triggers for your old behaviour — there’s a reason why alcoholics and drug addicts are actively encouraged NOT to hang around their old friends and family members who may have not only introduced them to their addiction but also actively enabled it…it’s hard to leave port for a better world if you’re still weighed down by an anchor that ties you to your old habits); suffer from other traits or moods that are not conducive to the change (and might need addressing too); or have poor coping skills / preparation (or even just lack the knowledge of how to implement a change).
However, all of the previous chapters came down to pages 308 to 315 for me. I wanted to make one very large change in my life — lose weight — and I was stuck. So I was looking for an enhanced understanding of why I was stuck and how to overcome it. These 8 pages helped me craft a kind of “to do” list.
Success depends on:
Conducting a fearless inventory of the costs, benefits, patterns and triggers of your “issue” (to make all the pieces clear to you, both in pulling you forward and in resisting change);
Finding the right motivation (to allow you to commit in the first place);
Substituting better or different habits to replace the previous ones (even if just to use the time differently);
Building in consistent rewards (to gamify the journey);
Committing wholeheartedly (to carry you through); and,
Changing the narrative of your journey (to reinforce the change and oppose relapses).
Jeffrey Kottler says he saved the most difficult subject for last in his book, “Change”, and it is addressed by Chapter 13, “Soliciting Support and Resolving Conflicts in Relationships”. He isn’t kidding. There are some really tough things in this chapter, often dealing with abusive spouses, parents with addictions, and family problems out the wazoo. It is both a problem in and of itself as well as an obstacle to other changes being accomplished. A list he includes of the types of changes you would like to make in relationships is an extremely powerful one, simply put:
Changing the patterns of those that are frustrating, unsatisfying, or unfulfilling;
Setting boundaries for relationships that aren’t meeting your needs or are taking a bite out of your soul;
Reducing the level and intensity of conflicts with others, especially those locked into repetitive patterns;
Ending relationships that don’t seem amenable to necessary changes;
Enhancing intimacy with friends and loved ones;
Feeling and expressing more love and caring in current relationships;
Initiating and broadening new relationships that meet interests and needs that are currently unsatisfied;
Experiencing more authentic, caring, honest, respectful, and fun exchanges with people on a daily basis;
Processing and recovering from perceived slights and relational difficulties in the past;
Practicing forgiveness to let some things go and move forward without lingering resentment; and,
Learning from past mistakes, misjudgements, and relationship breaches in order to enhance future connections. [pp. 276-277]
If you’ve done any past soul-searching about relationships, you could likely read the above list and think, “Yes, please”. All of them sound good. I’ve certainly faced hard truths in the first four. In the end, it led me to one of my greatest insights and freedom from some avoidable pain…
I trust people to be who they are. Not who I want them to be, nor who I unrealistically expect they should be, but rather that they will be who they are. It’s stupid, I know, but it reminds me of a scene in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Small geek diversion…Data is about to do a war game against Riker, and is trying to postulate what Riker will do. He starts to tie himself into knots to wondering if Data thinks that Riker will do X, then Riker could change his behaviour by knowing that Data thinks what he’ll do (X) and therefore Riker will do Y. Except if Riker knows that Data knows that Riker knows, etc…In the end, Troi counsels him that Riker can’t avoid being who he is at the heart (a risk taker with a penchant for innovative solutions). A stupid geeky reminder, but one that I find strangely comforting.
And from that “truth bomb”, that I should expect people to be who they are, I found the basis for a much different relationship with my mother when I set some clear boundaries (such as games I would not let myself be tricked into playing) and changed the pattern of expectation and disappointment from what I thought/hoped she would do to simply what she did do. I expected (and loved) her to be herself for her last ten years, not the mother I wanted her to be or expected she should be. Just who she was. By contrast, another relationship had passed its healthy expiry date and had become consistently toxic, so I ended it. And with #6, I make sure that I tell my son every day how much I love him.
I’m still working on many of the other ideas from #5-11.