Normal is not coming back

A large and dramatic storm cloud towers over the tarmac of an airport. The cloud is reflected in the wet runway.

This isn’t sustainable.

Many of us are stumbling through our work days, spacing meetings and missing deadlines. You might be thinking, “I can keep going for a few more months, until things get back to normal.”

It’s time to accept it: “Normal” is not coming back.

What would we do differently if we accepted this new reality? Here are some ideas for tech company employees and other salaried knowledge workers.

Announce company-wide stress leave after traumatic events so people can cope with the event.  Most of us are just pretending to work after these events anyway, so why not make it official? Make a plan so that everyone can take their stress leave within a week of the event.

If you can, set up an email autoresponder explaining that you are taking time to process and recover from the latest event. If you are not directly affected, consider including what actions you are taking in solidarity with those most affected.

Switch to a 32-hour, four-day work week and enjoy “increases in productivity, higher talent attraction and retention, deeper customer engagement, and improved employee health.”

Cancel meetings at the slightest excuse. No agenda? Cancel it. Too few things on the agenda? Cancel it. Can this be an email? Cancel it.

Reduce meetings. Tie meeting time reduction into performance evaluations. Set goals for meeting time and measure progress. Reduce the number of people attending each meeting. Reduce meeting length.

Re-evaluate projects and processes. What are you doing solely out of tradition? What is taking up the most resources for the least return? What is throwing good money after bad? Get rid of it.

Talk to trusted coworkers about the struggles you are all facing. Find common ground and come up with ways to improve your working conditions.

In your personal life, look for ways to build mutual aid networks with friends, loved ones, and neighbors. How can you prepare to support each other through ever increasing disturbances?

Can you take turns cooking, doing childcare, taking each other to medical appointments? If one of you is unable to work for a week or month, could your mutual aid group keep them fed and housed and safe?

The old normal is never coming back, and the new normal will keep getting worse for quite some time. Now is the time to plan how to support each other through it.