May 21, 2022

I mentioned the front bed under the Bradford pear tree is usually neglected as it is just outside my normal walkway on most days.  I go out to check for the paper (they no longer deliver on Saturday) and the mail (they do not deliver on Sunday), but the bed rarely gets more than a glance.  By the time I park in the drive I am past the bed.  The bed did get attention last year when the pampas grass grew prolifically and even bloomed.  That was the first pampas bloom for as long as Melissa could remember.  I had cut it back earlier that spring and thought that might be why it grew, but I cut it this year and am not getting the same result.  Melissa had planted hen ‘n chicks in the bed, but they did not do well during the winter, and she removed them last fall.  The only thing left were the intrusive grape hyacinth and the sedum mentioned yesterday.  I had to smile when I thought about the sedum.  Like so many succulents, the secret is to make it happy, then leave it alone.

When I looked online, I found being alone became the norm during the pandemic as over 100 million American workers transitioned from in-person to remote work.  Over half of those workers hope to continue working remotely, at least part time.  That meant a lot of people were happy being left alone to accomplish their work, but that varies between groups.  The most enthusiastic group to return to work is white men, at about 30%.  That compares to 16% of Black men, while white and Black women are around 22% each.  Working remotely appears to help some demographic groups more than others.  This was particularly true for Black men, as 47% reported their sense of belonging at work is slightly or much better than in-person (30% said it has not changed).  Working remotely also helped anxiety about their work, as 64 % of Black men reported less work-related stress and anxiety in a remote setting. 

Remote work may be particularly beneficial for employees of color, who tend to experience microaggressions, harassment, and abuse more than their white colleagues in in-person settings.  Angelica Leigh, a professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business said, “Dealing with racism, sexism and other forms of oppression is exhausting, and sometimes employees do need a break from just pushing through.  Remote work can provide employees with that time and space to escape.”  It is harder to be racist or sexist in a work environment of recorded meetings and easily forwarded emails.  For Leigh, a Black woman, working remotely has relieved her from having to endure comments on changes in her hairstyle from non-Black colleagues.  Being alone allows her the opportunity to concentrate on work.

THOUGHTS:  If there are disparities in who opts in (or out) of in-person work, physical offices run the risk of becoming whiter, more male-dominated, and more unfriendly to working mothers than before the pandemic.  Another report shows young males were more comfortable returning to the workplace as it afforded opportunities to meet other people, and potential dating partners.  This was not a concern for the women surveyed or for workers with a family who are not alone at home.  Humans evolved as social animals who thrive in groups, but at times we need to be alone.  During the pandemic there has been a temporary shift to the workers’ welfare rather than dictates of the company.  Business needs to adjust to the changing nature of work created by the pandemic, and a hybrid workplace may be the answer.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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