Parkinson’s Law? You’ll recognize it when you read it: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” While proven countless times in large bureaucracies, I’ve seen it affirmed in nearly every conceivable work environment. When I ran an industrial coatings company, for instance, I marveled at my workers’ ability to regulate the workflow. Five vacuum chamber loads per shift or three, the same man-hours were required. Now, with the advent of Covid-19, Parkinson’s Law is due for a necessary new codicil:
“Zoom meetings will expand so as to fill all available time.”
You know what I mean. Supervisors divorced from being able to walk around the office to verify that work is getting done, have transitioned to organizing more Zoom meetings. All hands on deck. Workers, in turn, feel obligated to speak up during these meetings as a way of proving that they are really contributing. The result? More frequent and longer Zoom meetings.
I can’t say that I am a fan of Zoom meetings in their current guise. Pre-coronavirus, they proved invaluable when speaking with clients, say, in California or, perhaps, Europe. They were a great way to “put a face to a name.” Far cheaper and more efficient than the business travel alternatives; better than a simple conference call. Now, however, I frequently find myself sitting through two hour long Zoom meetings that require me to participate for no more than a minute or two. While some participants are bold enough to turn off their video cameras, I stare blankly ahead, unsure of the correct, new-era etiquette. I seldom leave these meetings with a sense of something accomplished.
It’s the equivalent of punching the clock.
Dull work, but still strangely fascinating if one steps back to consider the adaptability of the bureaucratic persona. Like a cockroach, he/she will survive this pandemic and, almost certainly, the next one. Company restructuring? No problem. Layoffs? Still here. Work from home? Can do.
Therein lies yet another benefit of working for a startup. Fewer workers, less bureaucracy.
Mr. Dragone has spent the past twenty years as an acting/consulting CFO for a number of start-ups in a wide range of industries. Peter’s prior experience is that of a serial entrepreneur, managing various start-up and turnaround projects. He was a co-founder of Keurig.