A tip of the hat to Tim Faller of Remodelers Advantage, who recently identified a deceptively simple but frequent employer-employee disconnect. For those who may not know Faller or his podcast, Tim is a terrific remodeling educator and consultant. He recently identified the potential disconnect by asking, “What is work?”

The context in which Faller asked this question was a post-presentation forum about the relationship between organizational values and culture. At a time when hiring and retaining people is an ongoing challenge, a remodeling company can improve its attractiveness by more clearly defining its values.

Faller’s question helped reframe the values discussion and suggested that the concept of work also needs clarity, otherwise, assumptions lead to misunderstandings. Middle-aged business owners and managers often think of work differently than others in their organizations.

To be clear, tasks are tasks; they must be done. But there are different mindsets about work occupying the same workplaces today. For example, what is the relative priority of work for each employee versus family and significant out-of-office pursuits?

An earlier generation of workers came up at time when an employee asked, “How high?” when he or she was told to “jump.” Exceeding job performance was the goal above all else.

Most workers today also want to exceed at job performance, but some may wish to do so only until 5 p.m.—quitting time—even if it means finishing up a task at the start of the next workday. A worker with a different mindset might stick around for 30 minutes to finish the task and make a fresh start with a new task the following morning.

Work is work, but the details are often not clearly fleshed out. Faller said his point in asking the question was to point out that even black-and-white concepts need definitions for workplaces to succeed.

There’s another important layer to the definition of work. Today, distinctions are being made about types of work. Designers, for example, are often involved in “deep work,” where they benefit from unbroken blocks of time for peak performance.

Meetings, emails and Zoom meetings can interfere with those unbroken blocks to the point where creativity and productivity suffers. A key thing about deep work—which can be everything from writing an article to developing a strategic plan—is that it takes time to gain momentum. That momentum even has a name: flow state.

In a flow state, workers get on a roll to the point where they lose a sense of time. That is deep work. Smaller tasks do not require a flow state. You can start and stop without losing too much speed or productivity.

To get more out of their people and to make them happier, more companies are helping facilitate deep work. Some have a no-meetings-on-Wednesdays policy. It’s another way the definition of work has changed.

As simple as it sounds, in order to be the type of employer that attracts workers with its strong values and a solid culture, it’s important to spend time defining the meaning of work itself. QR

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