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The Shift: Why you need a work wife 🤷‍♀️

A birthday card arrived yesterday from my second work wife – it’s 20 years since our first shift together at Wine Rack in Dulwich. She taught me the ropes, and we bonded over ‘cups of tea’ (you can’t recommend a wine to a customer unless you’ve tried it, a few times.) Eight-hour shifts, so we had plenty of time for deep conversations about everything. I thought she was super glam: tall and blonde in her sharp grey suits (she worked 9-5 in a Japanese bank), and she’d bring in baked fish for supper. 

She was my north star and confidante and made me feel at home in London. I enjoyed those shifts more than my ‘proper jobs’ because we had fun and I had a tribe and community. Whenever I drink wine, I think about our ‘cups of tea’, and when we chat, we pick up from where we let off, no dramas. I’m happy she’s still in my life. 

Are work wives or husbands a good idea? Academic research finds risks and benefits. Katie Heaney has written a history of the work spouse and says we need to lay the term to rest. ‘That we’ve adopted this language for co-workers reflects an overidentification with our workplaces, the result of a culture that recast workaholism as ambition and asked us to lean in and work smarter and stay hungry.’ 

But I’ve found them invaluable. My work wives have kept me sane, made me happier and mentally healthier. After the basics are covered, food and shelter, we need to belong. And they’re not confined to the workplace either. I have a coffee shop wife – the owner of a vegan cafe I’ve been going to since it opened in 2007. I’ve watched her build her business, mother her kids, survive a health crisis, split up with men, and keep going, always a smile on her face. She’s a huge inspiration.

I’m curious to know how you find meaningful friendships when working remotely and doing project work? And in a culture that’s focused on busyness and burnout, leaving even less time for socialising. How do you do it and avoid being a work widow? Elizabeth Uviebinené has some great ideas in her new book The Reset‘we need to ‘invest time in growing our local, work and digital communities.’ 

My current work wife is virtual – we met while freelancing for a client. She’s a graphic designer, photographer and digital marketer, so we’ve teamed up to offer a package for clients looking for digital comms. We’ve hired each other for little jobs and passed work on. She’s a brilliant friend and advisor and challenges me to get out of my comfort zone, i.e. charge more! It’s a friendship I treasure and mostly digital now as we’re no longer in the office. She’s a mum of three and living in a different town, so I go over there to co-work.

Working remotely with friends has its challenges – you have to be super clear on communication, deadlines, feedback, and money when you’re both bosses and mates. It’s new territory to explore, a different way of working, but no less exciting. Good team energy leads to great products and services.

I’m also starting from scratch in a new field of work, building connections and starting small with virtual coffees and Slack chats to try and find common ground. Sereena Abbassi, former Head of Diversity and Inclusion at M&C Saatchi, has some great ideas👇 on networking and mentoring – giving and adding value, so it’s a two-way street. 

I admire Sian Meades-Williams and Anna Codrea-Rado’s working relationship – they’re good mates who have set up the Freelance Writing Awards to celebrate and champion UK talent. They seem to have a lot of fun working together and have each other’s back—lots of banter and silliness on Twitter. The awards ceremony is on 30 June – you can see the shortlist and book your free ticket here.

Have a fabulous weekend. It’s my birthday so I’ll be having drinks later with another work wife – my old boss. Ten years on, and we’re still mates. I’ve even forgiven her for introducing me to my ex 😉 

Nicci


Tools for thought 

👨🏽‍💻 Freelance and microwork platforms not fair to workers (Irish Tech News) Oxford researchers have been looking into labour practices like ‘cloud work’ and found these platforms don’t provide minimum fairness standards for their workforce. A good benchmark if you’re using platforms to find work. The report is a call for better standards as poor practices aren’t visible online, and many lower-income countries won’t push back. You can join the Fair Work Pledge here

📵 Reddit/NoSurf: ‘A community of people focused on becoming more productive and wasting less time mindlessly surfing the internet.’ I love the no-surf activity list: a comprehensive list of awesome hobbies and activities to explore instead of mindlessly🏄🏻‍♀️ like cooking, writing, reading and dancing. What did we all do before smartphones? I’m delighted to find this little corner of the internet dedicated to digital wellness – please share! 

🎧 Sereena Abbassi on how building inclusion starts with empathy (Hive Learning) and using the arts to create a sense of togetherness through feeling. Tips on how you can build inclusion by interacting with people you wouldn’t normally. Know everybody’s name. Do someone else’s job for a day. On networking and how using co-working spaces helped her to avoid becoming ‘institutionalised’ at M&C Saatchi (same applies if you WFH home full time!)

🏢 The problem isn’t remote working; it’s clinging to office-based practices (The Guardian). Alexia Cambon on how maintaining this way of working in a remote environment is causing damage to employees. ‘We need to stop designing work around location and start designing work around human behaviour. Employees will work better, stay at their organisation longer and keep healthier if they are placed at the centre of work design – trust me; we have the data that proves it.’

🦅 The rise of ‘third workplaces (Axios). People aren’t working from the office, but they’re not working from home either. We’re seeing the rise of ‘third workplaces’ — teleworking spots in cafes, hotels, or co-working spaces where you can rent space by the hour. I’ve signed up with Flown, the Airbnb for teleworkers. Book yourself into a remote-work-ready property in the UK, Spain or Portugal. Plus virtual co-working and a library of deep work resources.

Just don’t curate your day too much 🤔 


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter about humans, technology and wellness. Rethinking how we live, work + play. Weekly curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️

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