By Gerry Murray. 14-03-2021
(Scroll down for a laugh)

“Being self-employed means you work 12 hours a day for yourself so you don't have to work 8 hours a day for someone else.” 
~ Oliver Markus Malloy

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One of the skills that I've been going on about now for quite some time is this notion of Adaptive Capacity and, more specifically, how we deal with the range of paradoxical situations that we find ourselves in each day. 

It's probably fair to say that the Covid pandemic has created situations in our lives that we had not expected nor experienced before. As we see the possibility of emerging from the pandemic many of these situations are creating paradoxes. A paradox occurs when two statements that appear to be oppositional or contradictory turn out to be both true. In fact, they're often synergistic and/or complementary. 

Less is More

What we can observe is that paradoxes appear as opposites that can't function well independent of each other. Therefore, you can't really choose one as a 'solution' and neglect the other. 

The trick in dealing with paradoxical situations is not to try to resolve them as either-or problems but to manage them as co-existing elements in a system. 

The aim is to get the upsides of both alternatives whilst minimising, or if possible, eliminating the downsides/limits of each. If you're interested in learning more then I recommend checking out the concept of Polarity Management

An emerging paradoxical situation, as we look towards an exit from lockdowns and some form of normalcy returning, is that of: 

Working from home versus Working in an office

Once again, we see some organisations falling into the trap of trying to resolve this as an either-or problem rather than a situation to be skilfully managed. We see announcements such as company XYZ will close its offices and move to a working from home model. We hear of others who insist that they'll want everyone back at their desks five days a week 9-9 (this used to be 9-5!).

Interesting articles such as this one demonstrate some of the downsides of each. 

Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, who is quoted in the article, has been researching working from home for quite some time and you might be surprised (or not) by his findings

What can you do? 

So, if you're grappling with this whole paradox and/or are in a position to influence decisions about it for later this year here's an easy exercise you can do. 

  1. Draw a simple Table (in Word or on a sheet of paper) with 2 columns and 3 rows. This should give you 6 boxes. 
  2. Write Working from Home as the heading to one column and Working in an Office as the heading to the other
  3. Then in the next row brainstorm all the benefits of each option
  4. Then in the last row brainstorm the downsides of each option

Now, ask yourself what do you need to do to get as much of the benefits as possible of both approaches and minimise the downsides. I would even go as far as to suggest that this exercise be done as a team. You might be amazed at what could emerge as 'solutions' to how to manage this paradox. 

Are you suited to working remotely?

As Bloom mentions in his article, many people may not be suited to working from home. Or, it'll only work for them for short periods. Whilst some of this is situational (e.g. young children) a lot of it is related to how we like to get things done.

If you're working in HR or managing a team and are curious about this because of what you're hearing or observing, we have tools to assess both managers and employees on their ability to work remotely effectively. You could use these to help identify collective strengths and blind spots and design your new office hours and operating procedures based on these insights. This data could feed into your decision making process. Not including the human factor in this will most likely lead to unintended consequences and real problems! 

May you weigh up your remote options wisely this week...



Our maid told us that she was going to start working from home
She sent us a list of things to do.

Started working from home recently building boats in my attic...
Sails are through the roof.

I have a phone interview today, and someone told me to just be myself, so I’m not going to answer the call.

My boss, on Friday: “This is the fifth day in a row that you’ve been late.”
Me: “Well, I can promise it won’t happen tomorrow.”

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