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BOB GOLDMAN: The Big Shutdown of 2021

BOB GOLDMAN: The Big Shutdown of 2021

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If you’re having a run of really awful Bumble dates, don’t blame your bad luck, or your decision to use photos of Khloe Kardashian or Chris Hemsworth on your profile. It’s not you, it’s your app.



In the middle of June, the dating colossus shut down for a week. It was part of a company-sponsored program to reduce burnout among its badly toasted employees. The same explanation can be applied to the reason why the only offer you received from LinkedIn in April was not based on your Harvard MBA, but the job site’s description of your last position as a goat herder in New Mexico.

You guessed it! LinkedIn shut down for a week in April, allowing its employees to frolic while job hunters sat on their tuffets, waiting for the company to fix the glitches in their resumes.

And these are just two of the many companies that changed their focus from “How much work can we squeeze out of these slackers?” to “How much free time can we throw at these slackers?”

As Elon Musk so wisely said to me when we played pickleball at the Ale and Quail Club, “It’s a hell of a way to run a railroad.”

That workers are burning up and burning out is no secret. According to a recent Gallup Poll, “61% of women and 52% of men feel stressed on a typical day, both up from before the pandemic.”

I gleaned this factoid from The Washington Post, which recently ran the Soo Youn article, “American workers are exhausted and burned out -- and some employees are taking notice.”

It was COVID-19, of course. No surprise that the prospect of an early death tipped the scale for employees who had previously maintained a level of moderate unhappiness to become employees who are thinking, “I need to get the hell out of this job before I go totally moo-moo-goo-goo!”

What is surprising is that their employers actually listened.

Extra vacation days helped, but you know how it feels when you come back from the talcum-powder beaches of Bongo-Bongo to find a mountain of unanswered emails and threatening phone messages. For this reason, entire companies started closing up shop, so there was no one to send those annoying emails or receive those unsettling voicemail messages.

For example, Mozilla, the company behind Internet search engine Firefox, instituted a “Wellness Week,” a thriller-in-Mozilla concept that totally shut down the company. They followed up with additional “Wellness Days” shutdowns. So, if your search for answers to popular questions like “Are aliens real?” and “Does farting burn calories?” failed to produce satisfactory answers, now you know why. (Aliens are real, by the way. They work in IT and fart constantly.)

Or ponder PepsiCo, a Fortune 500 goliath, which didn’t shut down, but did wake up one morning and decide it was time to start “embracing flexible work schedules and remote work.” This is somewhat akin to the master of a Viking galley deciding to let the oarsmen take turns holding the cat-o’-nine tails so they could whip themselves when they weren’t rowing fast enough. Hotel giant Marriott International followed suit by “strongly encouraging teams to avoid meetings on Fridays.”

This makes me sad.

There’s nothing like an invitation to a mandatory 5 p.m. meeting on a summer Friday to make you realize that the company values your input, or else it would send you off to the golf course on Thursday at noon, along with its high-level executives, who everyone knows are worthless.

I am encouraged by the actions of Brooklyn’s Smart Design. Realizing that their ungrateful employees did not appreciate weekly Zoom happy hours, starting at 5 p.m., company management instituted “midday mental breaks,” which they position as permission to “do nonwork stuff during work hours.”

You could shop, jog or even eat. The company thinks it’s a brilliant new concept. Let’s not tell them they just invented the lunch hour.

If this new policy of shutting down the company for the sole purpose of de-stressing employees stresses you out, rest assured it will not last. C-level executives do not see themselves as recreation directors on a posh cruise ship. Indeed, your bosses see themselves as steely-eyed captains of mighty war ships, steaming into combat.

Soon enough, it will be back to all hands on deck. In the meantime, get in as much goofing off as you dare. The company will run just as well with or without you.

You know this. There’s no reason the bosses have to.

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