The Utopian Workplace

…a two-part narrative on where workplaces are today and where they could be

Jeff Kepler on Unsplash

Part 1

2019, Current time-space continuum, 7 AM

You just woke up and crawled out of bed hoping that the day passes with as ease as your morning dump. While brushing your teeth with crude vigor, you’re sad that the weekend is over and that you need to face the nightmare of your boss. If you can afford the time, you sip that heavenly coffee/tea while you perform your morning ritual of a LinkedIn search for that dream company/job. As you get dressed you tell yourself how fortunate you are, to be able to pay your bills & plan that next vacation. So what, if getting to that sassy office location in the super deep heart of the city from your suburb home isn’t exactly a breeze. The salary, bonus and RSU’s pretty much put you in the top 20% of your city — and people say that’s a good thing. Armed with that statistic, you drown your senses in the noise of NPR — silently mulling over capitalism, racism, immigration, climate change & healthcare when a moron quickly cuts into your lane and brings the rage back on. You curse for a good 15 seconds and feel somewhat relieved. An hour later, you reach your brick and mortar office but it’s already 9:45am , finding parking will be a challenge. When you finally step out of your S-Class, its already 10:01 am. You pace your way to the daily scrum meeting room. Thankfully, with projector not cooperating again and someone typing on their keyboard over the conference call, your boss is pretty occupied. He doesn’t notice that you’re a few minutes behind. Another morning bullet dodged. Everyone goes over their status updates while you check random peoples’ status updates on Instagram and Twitter. Before you realize, it is your turn to speak.You do the usual — glorify what you’ve accomplished in the last 24 hours trying really hard to be the cool kid in the room (although you’re 31 now). Your boss isn’t happy though (typical) but your bestie at the other end of the room sends a glance & a text of re-assurance your way. As soon as the meeting gets over, your teammates shoot small-talk darts at each other discussing weather, weekend and traffic situation at lengths. You quietly slide past those attacks and hit your bestie with a blast of ‘WTF-is-wrong-with-the-world, episode#974183256’. With an elevated & well-massaged ego and a conclusion that everything and everyone else in the world is beneath you (basically stupid), you at last make it to your desk and start reading through your emails.

Barely 10 minutes through, your attention is diverted to the IM from a teammate who was recently hired under the ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ program. You are annoyed and wonder what is it that she needs help with now. It has been more than two months since she started and yet she can’t do her job on her own. You fail to see the relevance in hiring a diverse workforce that isn’t half as qualified(as you are) but HR’s ‘be inclusive’ mantra echoes in the back of your mind. And so you respond cooperatively, helping her the next hour and a half. Having to do all that non-work, you desperately need a coffee break now. 20 minutes and a cigarette later, you return to your desk to find a pop-up for a technical meeting that started 10 minutes ago. As usual, the meeting over-runs. Its 2:00pm now and you’re hungry. You walk across the street & get the usual gyro sandwich. As you begin to eat at your desk while working, your boss stops by. After a few seconds of hesitation over disturbing your lunch, he decides to stay and pester you about your deliverables. You repeat what you mentioned in the scrum, explaining how you have a dependency and can’t move forward. But your non-technical, strictly MBA boss interprets it as you being lazy — his tone trying to rip you apart in pieces. You listen to his rant for the next 10 minutes, thinking this would need an hour’s cleanse of rock music blaring through your noise-cancelling headphones.

It’s 4:30pm. You might as well leave now to avoid traffic during the rush hours and if need be, work from home. Hopefully tomorrow won’t be as disagreeable as today.

Photo by Jonny McKenna on Unsplash

Part 2

2019, Alternate time-space continuum, another reference of early morning

I really wish I could say there is a singular version of alternate reality that offers solutions to everything mentioned in Part 1. There isn’t one. The problems our workplaces face today are very diverse. The change won’t happen in one timeline. Overlapping timelines will be needed to reach a utopia. Timelines where you’re happy with your workplace or the absence of it, the physicality of a ‘place’ of work doesn’t matter. There are no titles or hierarchies, perks are equally distributed. Machines are autonomous enough to peacefully co-exist without being classified as machines. Humans are unable to process skin color, accents or age — only the underlying emotions and language. Transportation is easy, stress-free, delay-proof and never impacted by human error. Self-correcting systems beware humans if they try to introduce bias in a perfectly normal workflow. Most importantly, money doesn’t exist !

I innovate ’cause I’m lazy.

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