Pondering Lakes 10 Pondering Lakesides with Mom
It’s this wonderful thread of moms.And it’s funny and it’s emotional and it really has turned into something greater than what we thought.Just because it wasn’t about work or didn’t take place at work doesn’t mean it was wholly separate from work.Those who didn’t show up at a crappy bar for overpriced gin and tonics weren’t ostracized.But like Helen, they could feel at a disadvantage, or as if they were doing something wrong, simply because their personality didn’t match the de facto culture.Some of these ideas can, at least at first, feel artificial or gimmicky, but they’re no more or less so than the implicit expectation to meet in a bar after hours, and they’re far more inclusive.I always felt so much pressure, wanting to be a mom and fully focused on work and figuring out how to turn those things on and off, she said.But I found the load is so much lighter working from home.I’ve long been a believer that professionalism is just a synonym for obedience, she wrote.The less social capital you have, the more you are tethered to professionalism.For the sake of their careers, they try to be more ‘put together’ than their white counterparts and take far more care with their appearance, Claytor observed.They describe wearing dress pants when their white colleagues are wearing khakis.But overall, black employees expressed a 29 percent increase in feelings of satisfaction and belonging working remotely, compared with being primarily in the office.Who’s able to professionalize their home spaces for remote appearances, and who’s trying to angle the camera so that colleagues can’t tell they’re Zooming from their bedroom?Which employees feel empowered to say, Screw it, I don’t care what my background is, and who is spending outsize time thinking about it?The less privilege and power you have in an organization, the more these things matter.But not everyone has access to a blank wall.Embracing remote work can help break down the monoculture, but only if you remain vigilant to the ways that it can also reproduce it.Until you can recognize that, efforts at creating a truly inclusive work culture will continue to fail.The disabled community has been waiting for companies to wake up to this need for years, while its members have advocated for more truly flexible work options.But now that they’ve been thrust on the workforce at large, it’s time to actually understand all the ways accommodations actually work.Steven Aquino has been covering the technology industry from California for the last eight years.Before that, he was a preschool teacher, but his cerebral palsy made it difficult to meet the physical needs of his students, day in and day out.He looked for something he could do, ideally from home, that would be less physically taxing.He found it in writing and reporting.That shift to working from home really changed who I am, Aquino said.I’m not always so tired anymore.Because I’m not so exhausted, and hurting, and thinking about it all the time, I’ve been able to concentrate on doing work I enjoy and take pride in. Working from home also helped with Aquino’s social anxiety, which was exacerbated by his stutter.Still, the rhetoric of the current moment and the opportunities of flexible work have felt, in his words, disorienting.We’re in a society where diversity and inclusion is a big subject right now, he said.And it’s inspiring to see.But it isn’t evenly distributed.I sit here and think, ‘Yeah, it is hard.You’re finally seeing what people like me have had to do.’ Members of the disabled community have spent years trying to force, plead, sue, or kindly request workplaces to become more accessible.And now people are complaining that remote tech is bad and no one knows how to manage boundaries?It’s going to benefit everyone, because we see life through a different lens, LaVant said.And if we add other intersectional lenses, well, me as a black disabled woman, you’re going to get a whole different perspective. Companies think that accommodations have to be expensive, LaVant continued, even though the average accommodation, before the pandemic, was less than $500 a person.But they still think extra.They think physical accommodation.If you ask for something out of the norm, or out of the standard of what has already been supplied, they assume you’re going to cost them a lot of money.But what’s happened with the pandemic has proven just how straightforward inclusivity can actually be.Take, for example, the conferences and networking events from the pandemic year, all of which were moved online, made accessible, in other words, to people who often could not attend them for whatever reason in the past, because of either mobility issues, care demands, location, or cost.Sure, they might not feel as intimate or exclusive.But that’s the point.Is something lost in our interactions when they move out of the physical world and online?But that loss dominates the conversation at the expense of what so many, especially those previously unable to participate, gain.Better at understanding the broad base of people that your organization serves, in whatever capacity, but also better at reducing employee turnover, and better at fostering creativity and collaboration.Who doesn’t benefit from a captioned meeting or a transcript? LaVant asked.There are so many benefits to universal design in physical workplaces.I mean, why do you think so many people want to use the disabled stall?Their argument, like LaVant’s, is pretty simple.You’re Not a FamilyValerie is an Australian expat, currently living on the outskirts of London, who found her way to nonprofit work after a toxic experience in the corporate world.She currently works as a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization that does significant outreach work in the community.She enjoys her job, because, in her words, I can see what is achieved through the money I raise. But Valerie’s previous experience in the corporate world taught her the necessity of maintaining distance between her work and her identity, which requires pushing against the culture of her company.Like every arts and charity organization, there’s a real stated culture that we’re a family and we’re all working together to achieve something, she told us.And like every other organization, what that means in real terms is that you’re expected to push yourself and you end up overworked. Chera, who’s a professor in Virginia, has endured similar messaging from her university, which describes itself as being like a family, which usually just means expecting them to do more with less, while highly competent people are being consistently burdened with extra work and underperformers slide by. Shelby, who works at an architectural firm in Texas, said that her company likes to talk about how its people are its biggest asset and, of course, that they’re like family. I think we’re a somewhat dysfunctional family, if that, she said.We’re still learning how not to be an old boys’ club.The problem isn’t that these companies are wrong in calling their employees family. Many of these organizations are evoking, reproducing, and incentivizing relationships that feel familial.So, too, can the companies that aspire to behave like them.But you already have a family, chosen or otherwise.And when a company uses that rhetoric, it is reframing a transactional relationship as an emotional one.It might feel enticing, but it is deeply manipulative and, more often than not, a means to narrativize paying people less to do more work.Treating your organization as a family, no matter how altruistic its goals, is a means of breaking down boundaries between work and life, between paid labor and the personal.And in these situations, your actual family, which is often more forgiving, more malleable, and more attuned to your needs, will always suffer.The rhetoric of workplace family has developed over the course of the last half century, but is often meant to evoke a bygone, romanticized notion of a simpler way to do business.Sarah Taber, a crop consultant who has worked in farming for more than twenty years, argues that the business of agriculture has helped perpetuate the false stereotype of the family business by portraying family farms as an agrarian, utopian ideal.That’s just not true.In reality, Taber argues, family farms are just as hierarchical, patriarchal, and exploitative of workers.The early agrarian economy was ruthless.It was also a family business, and the abolition of slavery didn’t magically destroy the power imbalances present in agriculture, even on family farms.Working on a family farm means working in somebody’s home, she argues.There are tremendous gaps in wealth and status and power.Put differently, there is no work environment immune to abuse, even in industries that don’t toil under fluorescent lights.The workplace family is billed as a way to engender cohesion and community.But often it works as a means to distract or compel workers to ignore their own exploitation.It dissolves the best attempts at boundaries.You can and should cultivate a workplace where people feel supported and valued.But you cannot be a family.So how do you break that dynamic?Distance and boundaries.They can give their employees the immeasurable gift of a schedule and flexibility that will permit them a world away from work and lift the psychological burden of that second family from their shoulders.A healthy work culture creates the circumstances for all employees to do their very best work.But a sustainable, resilient one understands and eagerly invites them to have lives outside it.