Water Fountains, Smoking, and Working From Home

Water Fountains, Smoking, and Working From Home

I remember my first job out of college very well. I actually hated the job, but I loved the people, it makes a huge difference, really. I would rather have a job where the people are great and the boss is great and the job is terrible than the reverse of that any day of the week. One thing I remember most was that everyone smoked accept for me. It did not take me too long to realize that it wasn’t just the smoke I was missing, it was lots of opportunity. Relationship building, ideas, networking, and much more. All of this was being developed in short smoke breaks, 5-10 times a day. You may sense a little bit of exaggeration, but there’s a reason employees that smoke, get a bad rep, let’s just face it. So what did I do about it? The same thing any young person would do that was wanting to work their way up wherever they were; I joined in. I didn’t smoke, well not exactly, it just depends on your definition. If you consider second hand as smoking, well, then I probably got my fare share. Was it worth it, that can be debated, but I think so.

I learned a lot from the smoke breaks and as a non-smoker, I began to be very strategic on how I approached them. I started only joining the smoke breaks when it involved people higher up on the corporate food chain than me, or someone that I thought could influence on my behalf. Now let me be clear, I wasn’t manipulating anyone and I sure wasn’t pretending to get to know them just so I could use them, but if I was going to risk my health, I was going to benefit from it. Needless to say, I did end up getting promoted and it wasn’t to long until I took my strategy elsewhere.

Networking, no matter the type, is an important key factor in building awareness around yourself to others and investigating the environment and conditions. People tend to do this naturally as a survival instinct, but also as a way to feed our social requirements. I talk about smoke breaks but you could say the same thing about camp fires. Community, networking, and discovering how we can improve, helps us create a better version of ourself. The decisions we make between who to hang out with, who our close circle of friends are and even who our spouse is, molds our improvement and shapes our potential.

I am reminded of gym class in grade school. After an intense workout we would go to the water fountain for a water break. There would be more conversation and activity in that one minute than the whole 45 minute gym class. In college, the campus water fountain is where I remember my most meaningful conversations with both friends and strangers taking place. In a way water and fire seem to play a big role in bringing people together, but what happens when technology disrupts nature’s ability to connect people? Does technology replace the connections, or does it artificially fill a void that creates an ongoing desire to satisfy our natural need to connect? Enter WFH (work from home). If we are working from home or virtually, what happens to the coffee breaks, the office drop-in’s or the hall way passes?

Does technology replace the connections, or does it artificially fill a void that creates an ongoing desire to satisfy our natural need to connect?

I have had many jobs over the years that have given me the flexibility to work from home. It has only been in the last year that I have experienced this full time. Like everything, it has its ups and downs and pros and cons, but one thing I have noticed more than anything is, the lack of challenging a thought. When we think independently, we naturally stain our thoughts with our own bias. We can be aware of this, but the bias still exist. It is only in our thought sharing that allows us to determine the value of that thought. Similarly to the smoke breaks or water fountain discussions we have and connections we make, we are participating in thought share. In doing this, we are able to assess and constantly evaluate the value of something. The instant debate and feedback loops are what make these interactions far more accurate than mere surveys or email replies. So what are we missing out on in a work from home environment, and can technology fill the gap. Is it possible that virtual working environments can improve equality or can it make it worse?

Applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are helping to connect people but at what loss? The company Spatial is helping to make it easier to collaborate more naturally via remote and AR/VR in general will help replace some comforts of physical human interaction, but again, at what cost. I think it is hard to answer the question without understanding the long term effects of any one answer.

Connections are what closely defines the similar attributes of people and technology. Back in the 1880’s Louis Pasteur demonstrated the “germ theory” of disease. Civilizations would develop around water sources as a way to full-fill the most basic of needs, however, the water would transmit microscopic organisms causing disease to spread. You could almost say that technology is our water source in the today’s world and even though how necessary it is to our way of life, it can carry many diseases. We already know that screen time effects us differently than viewing normal people and objects with our natural vision. Will our bodies eventually evolve to handle the fusion needed to technologically improve our ability to maintain efficiency in a future society. Will adopting technology become the equivalent to smoking? Will the advancements and promotions be given to the people who see value in something even if it has the potential to harm them? The answer is yes, this will happen, the question is how will it positively impact our push forward to add value to people, to businesses, to society. How will we adopt to overcome the competitive nature that exist amongst us, or will we continue to try to control the uncontrollable force that exist and the differences that create both problems and solutions in one.

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