“History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men.”
—Blue Öyster Cult, “Godzilla”
The floor beneath me cracked open when the cable guy knocked on the door. My youngest daughter Bryce shrieked with joy. My conference call had just started and I put myself on mute.
The crack under my feet widened. Sulfurous smoke billowed up and I heard a low, guttural rumbling, like an animal trapped in a cage. The house shook. Bryce howled with laughter. Somebody on the conference call asked me a question and I quickly unmuted.
“Um…yes,” I answered.
Silence on the cell phone. I jumped over the growing hole in my living room to open the door.
“Bryce, stay away from the hole,” I said. I opened the door, “C’mon in.”
The cable guy wrinkled his nose. He gave me a forced smile and asked, “Everything all right?”
The house shook. The guttural rumbling grew to a rolling growl. Bryce hung upside down from the couch with her head on the ground and giggled.
Another person addressed me on the call. I took my phone off mute and coughed. Silence followed. I thought I heard someone whispering. I muted the phone again.
“So, did any of my tech calls get documented for you?” I asked the cable guy.
He smirked and shook his head. “Nope, but I’m sure I can give you a hand.”
A blast of artic wind whooshed from the chasm in my floor. Bryce flipped over feet first and ran round and round the hole, laughing hysterically.
“Bryce, stop it.”
I explained everything to the cable guy. The fact that my wife – who had to visit a patient sooner than she thought and our childcare wasn’t coming until after she left, which was why I was watching our preschooler – was in the cable store the day before last to exchange one of our digital cable boxes, and the nice lady who helped her recommended we upgrade to the latest internet modem complete with built-in router. So we did, and ever since we had nothing but inconsistent connectivity and cycling bandwidth heartache. I told him I had already spent over three hours on the phone with four different people in tech support, falling woefully behind on work, deadlines looming and being remote puts that much more pressure to deliver, and each time I had to painfully reconstruct every single friggin’ thing that had happened since we installed the piece of cable modem shit.
He chuckled at that last sentiment and held up the modem. “I hear you. This thing is a first-generation piece of crap. I’ll get you set up with a new modem and you can use the router you have. It’s a lot better anyway. I’ve got to outside just for a minute and work on your line coming in. I may have to cut your cable for a few.”
Bryce had stopped running around the freezing smoky crater and was watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Nick Toons. Then the TV went off. Bryce cried out.
“Honey, it’ll only be out for a few minutes.”
She cried out again and ran around the hole some more. Another growl shot from the ground.
“Wait, Bryce! Stop!”
Then in my earpiece, someone was yelling at me, trying to desperately get my attention. I refocused.
“Get out of the house!”
That’s when the beast rose from the open ground in the middle of my living room breathing a freezing cold fire.
And I was that beast. A victim of circumstance maybe, or a “megatrend,” but a beast nonetheless. What got me thinking about the soft white underbelly of working remotely was our Hay Group TalentCulture #TChat Show about the various global trends impacting employee engagement today (Hay Group is a global management consulting firm).
Their recent research paper titled The New Rules of Engagement “predicts that by the end of 2018 almost a quarter (23.4 percent) of people worldwide will have changed jobs. That’s some 192 million workers due to hand in their notice over the next four years.”
This isn’t necessarily new information, but they frame it nicely and underscore the fact that the world is undergoing unprecedented change, driven by these six global megatrends:
- Globalization 2.0
- The environmental crisis
- Demographic change
- Technological convergence
These are monstrous megatrends that come with profound implications for how companies will be organized and led. But if leaders (and individual contributors) don’t adjust their approaches to employee engagement now, they will be unable to attract and retain talent through these major shifts.
Hay Group surveyed 300 heads of employee engagement from FTSE 250 and Fortune 500 companies, and over three-quarters (84 percent) believe that companies must engage their workforces differently if they are to succeed in the future. Yet less than a third (30 percent) believe their organizations are doing enough to adapt appropriately to the changes that lie ahead.
Let’s dig in deeper to one of them. Individualism, something that many others and myself live and breathe everyday. The entire makeup of the workforce has changed dramatically and the “I” in individual is quite prominent. We’re done with the tired old bait-and-switch work environment, where money drives motivation, or tries to. Where we’re only reviewed once a year and told what we’ve done right or wrong, with little guidance on where and how to improve.
Instead we’d prefer (and progressive organizations are adapting and delivering) more tailored career development programs, more continuous recognition and feedback, flexibility in the office and out (which of course is still highly dependent on what you do and what industry you’re in). This includes an open and regular two-way dialogue between employee and manager, the primary driver of ongoing engagement and the new age of performance management.
In fact, according to Hay Group’s World’s Most Admired Companies research, the best leaders spend as much as 30% of their time understanding others’ needs, and coaching and developing team members. But it’s a reciprocal relationship that needs simultaneous autonomy and specific boundaries to deliver business outcomes on all levels.
But out of all the megatrends listed above and analyzed in depth, one that wasn’t listed is the megatrend of remoteness (think like a Japanese monster movie “Megatrend Remotra Vs. Godzilla”), the whole point of my article’s opening.
If you haven’t seen it, even if you’re not a fan of The Oatmeal, check out Why Working from Home Is Both Awesome And Horrible. Hopefully you’re not that easily offended, although it’s not too bad. But for those of us who do work remotely, it will resonate painfully. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You may even pass out a little.
Ah, the virtual life…
The social awkwardness of being on conference calls and your teammates are joking about things you don’t understand — because you’re not in the office — and you never get the inside scoop.
The digital awkwardness of being online — all the time — working — and yet never feeling like you’re getting anything done or being acknowledged for what you do get done.
The technical awkwardness of being at the mercy of your own IT department when battling with ISPs, computer problems, you name it.
The hygienic awkwardness of showering much less frequently, and then being captured in perpetuity with a video conference call.
The familial awkwardness of your kids screaming inside or out while you’re on a conference call that you have to fully participate in. Add to that the moment you have to step in and actually take care of them while your spouse is away.
Ah, the frustration isolation…
So, if you’re interested, as a way to reframe your own Godzilla and remote work-life megatrend, you could revisit my simple two-step approaching to working virtually here.
Even though the isolated battles between my inner Godzilla and Megatrend Remotra will undoubtedly continue, staying engaged is a 24/7 job no matter where you work. Because it’s all about what you deliver in the end, and how motivated you are to deliver it, not where you deliver it from.
Nature always points out the folly of man either way.