Let me ask you to take a piece of paper (I bet it’s squared!) and write the names of 5 friends and 5 family members in the first column.
Now write in the 2nd column WHERE they work.
And now write in the 3rd column WHAT they do.
Looking at the forecast for this year and the future expectations forming in people’s minds right now, we should focus more and more on the second column. We should’ve done so already, but we didn’t. If you look into it honestly, we have to admit we failed to do so as human beings and as employers, too. The “Where do you work” question USED to be completely common until now. Ever since March, the increasingly common answer is: in the kitchen. it’s a good joke in the first week. It’s not so good in the second, and after seven months the changes it creates in people’s heads is clearly visible.
Many of us didn’t know WHAT we did. We only knew where. In this particular case, the first-person plural doesn’t include me fortunately, because I have been working in the kitchen for about five years, so 2020 didn’t change anything. But if you started it this year, the change feels enormous. Day by day, more and more people discover WHAT we actually do. Until now, it was hidden by the WHERE. If I wanted to make a point of it (why would I do such a thing :D), we could write our own names on the list above. Over the past two decades, corporations have relentlessly spent their efforts and millions and billions of bags of money on perfecting various elements of the misinterpreted employee experience.
And then came COVID, and everybody went home. And if you think about it, this kitchen sorely misses the ergonomic “let everything be green or blue instead of grey” armchair of the late 2000s
the “stationary bike in the company cafeteria and surfboard as a wall decoration in the meeting room named Los Angeles” of the early 2010s, or even the “healthy breakfast on Monday after yoga on the terrace” initiatives of the late 2010s.
We obviously don’t know if those things made us feel better or not. But we do know that their absence is very spectacular. You have to make the healthy breakfast yourself, and then wash the dishes, too. You must mount the surfboard on the wall and brush off the cobwebs from the stationary bike before you sit on it. It’s just that none of these things are quite likely to happen. The even more painful part of this issue is how obvious it feels that these cherries on the cream hid the cake itself. Those who thought they had a trendy job have just realized that their trendy job takes no more than 110 minutes per day if you measure it with a time tracker (if you don’t believe me, try it, it’ll hurt :)), 65 minutes of which you spend tapping on the different SAP interfaces according to the pre-determined rules.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s always been like that. It’s just that we didn’t realize it.
But if you’re in your kitchen with no surfboard in the “Los Angeles” and no chives omelette with the CEO on the terrace, it’s a bit more painful than it used to be. Even if you are paid HUF 830k gross per month and you can fill up your gas tank. If you drove anywhere, that is.
But you don’t. Especially this year, and especially next year when we will talk about 2020 as the good old times when we had peace, at least in January and February. And we had omelette, too.
Now, let’s turn the question around. Back in 2017 I wrote in a post, which I’m too lazy to find right now, that the employee is responsible for the employee experience and not the employer. I stand by it. I also stand by the statement that you don’t need a surfboard on the wall if you have a meaningful job.
- what can you do now to feel better in your kitchen?
- what other job would you do where you had less time to miss the omelette?
- how could you magically include some of these things in your job?
- what is it about your current 110-200-600 minutes that you don’t like? Is there someone else who likes that thing? How could you trade?
There’s always been room for organizational proactivity, but the term is unfortunately so underused, Google doesn’t know it exists. But Google is wrong, just like it still doesn’t know what lokali is to this day. Believe me, managements that are willing to modify your job description as long as you are willing to figure out what exactly you would like to do are much more common than the use of the term itself. Let alone teaching people to use it. So, do something about it, and make sure you have a job that you feel like doing in your kitchen, too. Believe me, no one other than you gives a darn what you do, just as it was clearly proven by the not so scientific but very intriguing experiment above.
They don’t care, not because you’re unimportant, but because the WHAT has never been as important as the WHERE.
Until now, that is.
And WHAT do you do?