FIRST THOUGHT: Working Without Desks
I’m writing this at a cafe. On my third try, I finally connected to the Wi-Fi. People with laptops and tablets sit on grey-and-white rattan chairs. The price for this pseudo-office? A coffee, açaí bowl or the like. This is the new normal, in case you were unaware. It’s the gig economy, and as with any trend, there are pros and cons: Flexibility, variability and autonomy can be major perks. At the same time though, if you’re a freelancer, you've got costs many clients don't recognize, like health insurance and a real punch in the gut come tax season. But here’s the thing: Having multiple gigs doesn’t look like a craze that’ll fizzle. It’s here to stay.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 2.7 Billion
Whether companies are transitioning more to remote work or peeps are looking to spend their days outside of the office, one thing’s for sure: Deskless workers are on the rise. The world is full of 2.7 billion people that work without a traditional, stagnant workplace. Part of being sans desk also means you’re able to shape your career much differently than those who work in an office.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Stacey Epstein, CEO of Zinc
One of the ways working without a desk can be different? You can pause, pick up your kid from daycare and dial into a conference call in the car. That’s what the business of today’s Woman to Watch, Stacey Epstein, is totally trying to make happen.
Stacey studied journalism, with her career sights set on broadcasting. (Spoiler alert: That career didn’t quite happen.) Stacey jumped from job to job every six months or so, taking on roles in fields like sales. While on maternity leave from a particular job at a marketing communications firm, Stacey decided to never come back. Her priorities shifted, big time, but she still wanted to strengthen her expertise, while also being there for her child.
While being a woman never held Stacey back, becoming a mama seemed to complicate her relationship with work. For one thing, senior-level roles with a 9-5 schedule simply didn't exist for Stacey. She’d have to compromise on pay and ambition unless she wanted to continue her 70-hour weeks.
From managers failing to let remote workers know what the heck is going on to colleague misunderstandings out the wa-zoo, there are some serious flaws to having a deskless vocation. According to Stacey, whether you’re without a desk or bound for the cubicle, there’s still one obstacle that continues to stand in the way of the future of work: motherhood.
When Stacey became CMO of a company that would later be acquired by GE, she had five women working for her who all had small children. She let them be highly skilled contributors with fewer hours or more flexible workdays depending on their needs, so they could still go home to their kids. Stacey claims this didn't jeopardize the company at all, as women are often experts at getting it done.
Now, Stacey leads by example by starting a company called Zinc. Though she’s at the helm of a 50-person team, she’s still home by dinnertime. Zinc has been heralded as a startup comparable to the uber-successful company Slack. Zinc’s mission aligns with what Stacey herself experienced as a worker bee on the go: It centers on the idea that because so many people work anywhere and everywhere, those working on a team or in a duo must communicate seamlessly.
Zinc is the first all-mode communication platform, meaning it allows messages, voice conversations, video chats and content sharing. For example, in lieu of old-fashioned walkie talkies, big companies like Hyatt uses Zinc to cut out the static. A medical group opts for Zinc instead of emails to keep things in order while staying HIPAA-compliant.
One of Stacey’s pet peeves is the overused expression “future of work,” which she’s been hearing since the early 2000s. Looking ahead for career gals is great and all, but Stacey asks, “What about now?”, as in, like, today.
QUITE THE QUOTE
Gina Carey said:
"A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink."