Presence of mind, not being present in the flesh

‘presenteeism’: (noun) the practice of being present at one’s place of work for more hours than is required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about one’s job.

Ask any lawyer if they have stayed behind at work when they weren’t needed, whether or not that’s a a manifestation of their job insecurity – and it almost is, and I’d bet all could tell you a great tale.

Mine..

I was leaving the office and put on my jacket and my partner – seeing me do this – asked if I was cold.

So, the realisation that ‘presenteeism’ exists as a problem is no secret (‘It’s a waste’: Law firms plagued by ‘presenteeism’ culture and graduate ‘sweatshops’ by Michael Pelly in the Australian Financial Review [published on Feb 22, 2019] and ‘4,200’ – why it’s a prize not worth winning on this blog highlight this issue); but what really grab my attention was an excellent article in this week’s The Economist (‘Bartleby – The joy of absence‘).

The Economist article talks to two things that really resonate with me with regard to the futility of presenteeism in the legal profession – especially as we move forward.

The first speaks to the way we were (and some would argue still are):

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce group, recently praised the 996 model, where employees work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week, as a “great opportunity”.

The second includes what is probably year-to-date one of my favourite lines (and the title of this post):

Turning an office into a prison, with inmates allowed home for the evenings, does nothing for creativity that is increasingly demanded of office workers as routine tasks are automated. To be productive you need presence of mind, not being present in the flesh.

As always though, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback.

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