Sebastian Herold

June 15, 2021

Jason Fried made an interesting statement about the real-time status of many modern communication work tools. (And it made me think of a fundamentally important principle.)

Truth is, there are hardly any good reasons to know if someone’s available or away at any given moment. If you truly need something from someone, ask them. If they respond, then you have what you needed. If they don’t, it’s not because they’re ignoring you — it’s because they’re busy. Respect that! Assume people are focused on their own work.

Jason Fried — Active? Away? How about neither.

I know there is a lot of chitchat going on about everything related to Basecamp’s internal decisions that I don’t want to talk about right now. All the mumbles left aside, I really like Jason's way of thinking in his piece of writing even if he cannot cover the entire working world mindset with this opinion. There are people — and I guess not just a few — that can be totally productive in a restrictive 9 to 5 working environment AND are being completely happy with it.

Here comes the part that got me thinking:

But it wasn’t until we gave up on Presence that we really got to embrace the complete sense of calm that comes from not caring about when someone is working (or not) or where someone is (or isn’t) at this very moment.

Trust! That’s the reason why I like his thoughts because it addresses a deeply ingrained human feeling and the way how disrespectful big company treats this feeling and doesn’t take it seriously. Trust is good but control is better — this is such an old, sad mantra. And when I speak about trust towards employees then that also means trust towards one's own work. An exuberant compulsion to control is always linked to one’s own insecurity.

In my medium-long life, I had several opportunities to get the idea of what it’s like to work for big German companies with more than 1k permanent employees and, oh boy, welcome to the Middle Ages of work culture. With really just a few small exceptions (an advertising agency: 5 people, an editorial office: 8 people, a running sandals distributor: 3 people), all of the companies, even those that claimed to have a seemingly open-minded, eye-to-eye corporate culture, it was always a form of tacit distrust of the work of others.

So much insecurity towards oneself. So much tension. That was mental.

Of course, that’s certainly not how things work in all large companies in this country. And the Corona pandemic in particular set things in motion that might not have become reality for another decade. Sometimes people look at me a bit weird when I tell them what a great time we live in. All the deaths and suffering and misery are terrible and I sincerely hope that we have learned something for a coming pandemic. But now, after the big break, there are so many chances and opportunities to do things differently, to think differently. And how we want to reshape our working lives is just one of many things.

Jason Fried | TEDx Midwest – Why work doesn't happen at work.