in partnership with.png

Written by Kieran Delamont, Associate Editor, London Inc.


Unbossing the workplace

Companies are increasingly ditching middle-management positions, and it could be millennials who find their jobs are most at risk

ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY, COST-CUTTING measures, technological improvements and corporate reorganization are all coming together to produce a trend that you might call the rank-and-file’s dream scenario: companies are removing layers of middle management, which accounted for one-third of all layoffs last year ― or, as it is being dressed up, businesses are “unbossing” the workplace.


An unbossed workplace is one with fewer middle managers, and more autonomy for the staff. “In unbossed cultures, managers are able to assume more of a leadership, than a supervisory, position,” explained Hailey Mensik. “Unbossing itself does not necessarily entail a complete elimination of managers, but more so creating flatter organizations where managers are less hands-on.”


The goal, suggest experts, is to improve productivity via leaner org charts and greater autonomy. It recognizes that middle management has grown bloated in a lot of organizations, especially in the context of remote work. “Companies began to realize that we don’t have to watch over what people are doing all day, as long as they know what they’re accountable for,” said industry analyst Josh Bersin.


Who wins and who loses from this trend? The digital natives of Gen Z look to be the clear beneficiaries ― they’re more adept at self-directed work (and much less fond of managers) than other generations. And surprisingly, it’s millennials who look to be the losers. Millennials, especially those on the older side of the generation, have moved into management in greater numbers post-pandemic, and are now being burned at that level. “It could well be that that’s the generation that takes this hit,” observed leadership coach Lara Milward.


Not everyone thinks the so-called “Great Unbossing” is all that great, though. Middle management may have its problems, some experts point out, but eliminating management positions just to trim costs can risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. “Middle managers serve as vital conduits between frontline employees and senior leadership,” said Joe Galvin, chief research officer at Vistage. “Without these intermediary roles, employees may feel disconnected from decision-makers.”


The digital twin dilemma

Are we ready for AI to take over our Zoom calls?

giphy image

WITH MORE AND more people settling back into some sort of office routine, plus the rise of notable and ubiquitous competitors like Microsoft Teams, you might be wondering, What’s next for Zoom?


That’s a question Zoom CEO Eric Yuan has been pondering as well, as usage has come down and pressure is mounting to figure out what its next move is going to be.


Well, it appears the answer lies in giving us the ability to clone ourselves. Yuan recently told Decoder that his vision for Zoom (which is, like many others, heavily invested in AI right now) is in “digital twins,” a personal AI that goes to meetings for you, answers your emails and so on.


“For every human being, you have to have your own LLM [large language model]. You have your LLM; I have my LLM. I might have multiple versions of my LLM,” he said. “All of us, we will have our own LLM. That’s the foundation for the digital twin. Then I can count on my digital twin. Sometimes I want to join [a meeting], so I join. If I do not want to join, I can send a digital twin to join. That’s the future.”


If the spectre of digital twins making business decisions with other digital twins is a bit haunting, take a breath; Yuan admits that the tech required for digital clones that take meetings and make real decisions for you is a long way off at Zoom. (For AI news nerds, the whole interview is a great listen.)


But in the more radical edges of the market, some companies are already offering this product. One company, Touchcast, is experimenting with a product that’s essentially what Yuan is talking about ― and it is reportedly very convincing.


“In a demo over Zoom, [CEO Edo] Segal’s clone was so lifelike I almost forgot it was entirely synthetic,” wrote one Bloomberg reporter.


Julien Chaumond, CTO at the company Hugging Face, runs a chatbot clone that can receive and respond to messages. Another startup, Synthesia, recently launched Expressive Avatars. “We’re not just creating digital renders,” the company said. “We’re introducing digital actors.”


Send in the clones? Too late ― they might already be among us. 

Terry Talks: A few ideas to help you become a better leader

At its essence, leadership is the act of motivating and inspiring a team towards a common goal. Leaders help themselves and their team’s progress towards their goals by setting direction, creating and upholding the overall vision and inspiring each person to do their best. But leaders not only require the business planning skills and vision that help ensure a company’s success, they also need human qualities, like empathy and humility. And by taking the time to consider a few simple skills, leaders can better connect with their team and help turn visions into reality. 



Anything but a vacation

For working parents, the summer months are often a logistical and financial nightmare. Workplace transparency and flexibility can help ease the burden

IT’S JUNE, AND with the long nights, beautiful weather and backyard barbecues comes something else: nightmare schedules for working parents. Graduations, end-of-year recitals, school trips, exams, ceremonies, all of it culminating in summer vacation ― two months of shepherding the young’uns from camp to camp or trying to balance work with kids at home.


“The end of the school year means a merry-go-round of concerts, recitals, stepping-up ceremonies and other celebrations,” writes Tami Forman, in The Working Parent’s June Survival Guide.  “School administrators will say that having a lot of end-of-year activities increases the chances that parents can make it to some of them, but too many of us feel the obligation to go to all of them.”


“Summers have become a logistical and financial nightmare for working parents,” noted Lauren McKinnon, founder and CEO of Project Mockingbird, in an interview with DigiDay. “Summers leave us financially strained and emotionally depleted.”


Another parent, Peter Mutabazi, said, “My kids are signed up for all the lessons I can find. Swimming, basketball, tennis, you name it…having help with childcare is the only time I can spend focused on work.”


This is nothing new, and parents have long had to balance their summers this way. But with more parents working from home or balancing tricky hybrid schedules, and with childcare and camp costs often serving up sticker shock, summers are getting increasingly taxing on parents. Add to that return-to-office mandates in some cases, and you might have a very precarious and tiring summer on your hands.


One way that some professionals and their employers are choosing to respond is with radical schedule transparency, and schedules are filling up not with meetings but with items like ‘kindergarten graduation.’


“Previously, people would have tried to hide why they were leaving early, why they couldn’t take a call at that time,” said one marketing VP, speaking to Bloomberg. “Everyone that reports to me knows that I will have this challenge this summer, and I know that they will have those challenges this summer. It’s not a secret on each other’s calendars.”


Workplace psychologists also recommend this kind of transparency, but also recommend that parents cut themselves some slack, too. “Watch out for that feeling of ‘should,’” advised Jennifer Newman. “Once you’ve made summer arrangements that satisfy you, remind yourself you are doing a great job.” 


Rise and grind?

Whether or not to drink coffee first thing in the morning has become a hotly debated topic. Does it really matter?

IT WILL COME as little surprise when I tell you that working folks like their coffee. Somewhere in the ballpark of two-thirds of all adults in North America drink coffee, and a large chunk those are (like, ahem, yours truly), well and truly hooked: the coffee machine is the first place we head in the morning when we wake up, and the notion of doing any work, let alone mental work, without it is unthinkable.


And yet a debate has sparked up recently over whether this beeline to the machine is a good thing. Actually, let’s rephrase that: a debate has sparked up around whether this is the best way to drink coffee.


“Most everyone that delays caffeine intake to 90 to 120 minutes post-waking experiences increased mood and energy [after the acclimation of one to two days], no afternoon crash and better sleep,” said neuroscientist and health influencer Andrew D. Huberman.


Is it actually true? That part is debatable.


“Proponents explain the idea as if it’s supported by good evidence,” wrote Alice Callahan in The New York Times. “But scientists who study the relationship between caffeine and sleep say that while there may be some benefits to putting off your morning coffee, there’s not much research to back them up. In some cases, experts warn, the risks of delaying your morning caffeine could outweigh the purported benefits.”


One rationale for delaying is the idea that you grow more fatigued as the day goes on, and thus you might get “less bang for your buck” if you are drinking it first thing, said Michael Grandner, director of the sleep research program at the University of Arizona. But the impact is minimal, and mostly about personal preference.


A study published earlier this year was pretty ambivalent on the effects of delaying your morning joe. “There is no evidence that caffeine ingestion upon waking is somehow responsible for an afternoon crash, or that delaying consumption would somehow prevent this if it did occur,” wrote a group of scientists in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.


The bottom line – and this is not just the coffee drinker in me talking – is drink your coffee however, and whenever, you damn well please. As Beth Skwarecki put it, “If you’re bleary-eyed at 7 a.m. and white-knuckling it until Andrew Huberman or your favourite TikTok healthfluencer says it’s time, just drink the coffee already.” 


LinkedIn Share This Email

Follow Us

Facebook  Instagram  LinkedIn  Twitter