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Women In The Men’s Room

March 1, 2018

She was the only female executive at the annual planning conference. Meetings were scheduled for all day, but it was often during the side conversations over coffee and the ubiquitous danishes that the real plans were hashed out and finalized. During a break after the morning session, several vice presidents started discussion how the funding for the new operations center could be handled. She picked up a fruit plate and leaned in as one of the men started to describe his projected budget. Three hours of sitting and drinking bottled water was taking it’s toll and as a group, they headed for the restroom, conversation in full swing.

She pulled up short at the door marked MEN. She could hear the conversation continue as the door swung shut behind her retreating peers. Her own bladder was asking for her attention, but she had a decision to make. With a determined effort she pushed the door open and walked in.

If we are going to have this discussion, I think I need to be part of it.

When business gets done between formal meetings, you need to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be part of them. In fact, it’s essential that you do. Whether it’s going for drinks after work, or playing on the community basketball team, or even having an informal meeting while headed to the restroom.

High speed internet has finally made possible the promise of a remote workforce. My home office setup includes a docking station for my laptop, dual monitors, my office phone that uses VoIP to seamlessly route my calls to either home or work. Using a virtual private network (VPN) connection, I can be fully logged into my work network. I have everything at home that I have at work. Everything except coworkers.

In fairness, my coworkers are not all in my office building in Salt Lake City. They are scattered all across the United States and parts of Asia. Often, I don’t even know where a coworker is located. I recently discovered that one entire department that I’ve worked with for months is based in India. They simply keep “Salt Lake City” hours. We use all the modern tools of distance working: Skype for Business, text, phone, email, WebEx, GoToMeeting and Citrix logins. I can literally do anything from my home office that I can do from my work office.

So, why have a work office? Well, during the summer, it’s great to get away from my house full of kids. But, is there a place in our modern distance-working world for face time that’s not FaceTime?

Yes. Some companies, Yahoo, IBM and some others have attempted to dictate that employees work in the office every day. I think they will eventually change and allow people to work remotely. What they are trying to accomplish is the synergy that comes from “hallway” conversations. The comraderly that comes from hearing about your vacation to the lake, or the kids recital, or just the story behind the framed comic in your office.

But, the high speed network links that have freed the worker from an office, have also freed up the companies. Companies can put buildings in areas that previously were too remote, or too underpopulated. Companies are spreading out.

What’s that mean for building esprit de corps? It means that companies need to replace quantity time with quality time. Maybe your executive team only meets together in person once or twice a year. Maybe your Vice President only sees your call centers a few times per year. During those times, you should provide both formal meetings and opportunities for informal gatherings.

But, probably not in the men’s room.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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