Earn Work-Life Balance

A Perspective on Work: A Place You Go or a Thing You Do?

Jean Chatzky  |  December 14, 2021

The pandemic has forever changed the way we work. But is it for the better?

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This Week In Your Wallet: Work, A Place You Go Or A Thing You Do?

 Years ago, I heard the wonderful Jamie Lee Curtis speak at The Women’s Conference in California. She was talking about an effort she’d been making not to say to her young children, “Mommy has to go to work,” but instead, “Mommy is going to work.” The point was to emphasize that work – in her case at least – wasn’t some drudgery that she was being forced to undertake, but something she was at least ambivalent about, and maybe even looking forward to. 

I thought about that this week as I read Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield’s comment to The Washington Post that “CEOs trying to lure employees back to the office [are attempting what’s] probably a doomed approach. Work is no longer a place you go. It’s something you do.”

Do you agree? I’m not sure. Part of me would very much like to have a consistent place of work to go to – not every day, but on the regular. And, I’m very cognizant of the impact not being together has had, particularly on the younger workers in my company and others. It’s not any sort of formal training that’s been missing, but the ability to ask a question over your shoulder and to be able to then ask a follow-up without having to go back and forth over email or Slack (and yes, we’re fans of the latter). It’s also – and I suspect this isn’t just limited to growing up in a newsroom – listening to the calls more seasoned colleagues are making, even if you’re doing so with half an ear. Learning from how they report, carry themselves, and handle the occasional pickle. It’s the immersion. 

Butterfield points out some other things we haven’t mastered – like effective communication, how to run (real or virtual) meetings, and clarifying the expectations and objectives we have for our employees. He believes we’re still due for an upgrade in tools and technology to make remote work more effective. And says we have a lot to learn about working asynchronously on group projects.

Resignation or Realignment?

 Butterfield’s discussion fits squarely into the big conversations we and so many others have been having about The Great Resignation. The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson has no beef with the data that shows a record-breaking number of people leaving their jobs. That happened in April, then again July, August and September. But he offers up three ways it’s being misunderstood

First, he says it’s really not about people quitting their jobs. Rather, he writes, “low-wage workers are switching to better jobs in industries that are raising wages to grab new employees as fast as possible… making it more like The Big Switch than The Big Quit.” He also notes that most of the people who’ve resigned en masse are actually older Americans who just retired earlier than they (and their employers) likely expected. Finally, he points out that although we’ve seen a lot of stories pointing to the impact of burnout among white collar workers, the number of people leaving industries like law, finance and tech pale in comparison. 

… Which Is Not To Say That Burnout Isn’t Real 

Rachel Feintzeig of The Wall Street Journal cites a study from The Conference Board showing more than half of workers say their “mental health has degraded since the start of the pandemic.” If you’re feeling it, the important question to ask yourself is how to bring it up with the boss (which isn’t the same, she notes, as sharing with a friend). The goal here is to figure out what you might need – specifically – to help yourself get to a better place. Is it time for therapy? Time off? Something in-between? And, on the flipside, if you’re trying to manage employees through this challenging time, it means actively and regularly checking in on their personal and professional well-being, giving them as much flexibility as you can handle while still being clear on your expectations (see above), and trying to let go of things (like meetings) that really don’t have to happen. Small-ish changes, yes, but they yield big results.

 Not Too Much Time Left In 2021

 If you’re wondering how it’s already mid-December, how Christmas is – what??? – next week, and New Year’s the week after, here’s the 411 on the money moves to make before year end. Kara Buckley tackles the topic for HerMoney. She looks at changes you may want to make to your retirement contributions, how and why you should review your employee benefits for 2022, and she advises on how to make sure your RMDs toe the line. Importantly, she dives into what’s going on in your Flexible Spending Account where there’s been a lot of misinformation flying. If you’ve heard that all that money could be rolled over to spend next year, you heard wrong – it all depends on the rules your individual employer set, so check with your benefits manager or HR. 

All I Want For Christmas Is An NFT?

Finally, if you’re trying to figure out what to buy for those toughest cookies on your list, check out US PIRG’s guide to buying less and giving more, which includes deeper dives into experiences, pre-loved gifts, upcycled gifts, repaired gifts, shared gifts and more. 

Or, if that doesn’t light your fire, consider taking the route The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern took when she got her mom a crypto wallet then filled it with an NFT made from a piece of art created by her four-year old. Maybe you’d never make the effort. But if you’re crypto curious in the least, it’s a very enjoyable read.

Have a great week,


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