Regular readers of this blog will by now be fully cognisant of the fact that we at Mediolana are not given to spouting mindless hyperbole. But we are also not a company to pull our metaphorical punches, and 2018 promises to be a year like no other: silos will smash, synergies will shine – and there is even a small outside chance of a razor-thin London corporation making its mark on the largest cultural intersection of all.
More of that later: HNY, and we’ll see you next year!
Regular if not borderline obsessive readers of this blog will by now be aware that we will seemingly always have time for Mel Giedroyc, former co-hostess of the late 1990s cult (and mildly subversive) daytime television show Light Lunch. Giedroyc – who is one of a handful of British celebrities with Baltic origins, roots she happily refers to despite the wave of xenophobia which does so much to define contemporary cultural discourse in the UK – was recently featured in CAM, the (University of) Cambridge Alumni Magazine (My Room, Your Room, Issue 75, Easter 2015), exchanging observations with current student Matt Rees at her alma mater, Trinity College.
The main thrust of the piece was the contrast between Giedroyc’s carefree late 1987 matriculation cohort and their contemporary equivalents: laughter and disaster characterised the former, while the latter is notable for emphasising academic work to the exclusion of everything else. Indeed, the comedienne remarked that the top-down time-based targets promulgated by the university authorities – students are now excepted to put in a minimum of forty study hours per week – is brutally akin to having a (‘normal’) job.
Juxtapositions aside, the real question is surely this: is either approach viable? After some contemplation, we at Mediolana think not. In an era of deep globalisation and spiralling student debt, chaotic, alcohol-fuelled university careers are simply unviable from pretty much every standpoint; however, the reduction of degrees to monotonous, corporate-style programmes is hardly a recipe for economic rebirth, let alone joy. Relentless work regimes are good for medium-term social control – and little else. Nothing less than a total reconceptualisation of academic work is required.
One of the leitmotivs of this blog is productivity and organisational best practice, and our Creative Director & CSO has a particular thing for paper: in an era when most companies’ relationship with this material goes little further than exhibiting hundreds of sticky coloured notes on a wall, we at Mediolana feel that the value of the physical act of writing risks being lost in our eternally new, electronic and screen-defined consciousness.
Therefore, we take the procurement of personal organisers and diaries really seriously. But exhaustive recent research on this topic has left us contemplating a genuine puzzle: the global proclivity towards the production of weekly (or even monthly) organisational tools, as opposed to those with individual days as their main unit of focus. Indeed, for every daily planner being offered by manufacturers, there are seemingly one hundred or more which cover an entire seven days in just two pages.
On closer inspection, even some daily planners turn out to be nothing of the sort. Otherwise brilliant and award-winning organisational products treat weekends as time periods in which nothing much happens – and which need not be allotted the space accorded to a ‘working day’. Even many of those personal organisers which do actually stick to the not-particularly-radical format of one page per day seem to get overwhelmed by the concept and omit basic features (such as time delineations) which one would think it impossible to overlook.
So what exactly is going on the the world of diary production? Is the assumption that planning an entire twenty-four hour period is passé or implausible justified? Are people struggling to get anything much done to the extent that a short space for each day should be the norm? Or has everything just become an app?
Regular readers will doubtless have noticed something different at the top of this blog page. As they used to say in this industry: stay tuned for details!
As a company headquartered in what we increasingly feel is Western Europe’s most surreal metropolis, Mediolana is not immune to the effects of the cold spell that has recently had much of the continent in its firm, icy grip; while the probable impact of the North Atlantic Current means that temperatures in London have not plummeted much below -5℃, freezing nights and chilly days have done nothing for the productivity of the Mediolana CSO, whose RescueTime statistics are in genuine danger of slipping below 99%. The harsh weather in a usually benign climate means that the mind is prone to lose concentration, wandering to prosaic matters such as when to make the next hot drink, feeling the radiator to verify its continued functioning and choosing whether or not to put on that extra layer.
With the weather patterns set to change quite dramatically over the forthcoming week – incredibly, the forecast is for a 9℃ increase in night temperatures within 48 hours of the publication of this blog post – this may strike many readers as an essentially temporary or at worst seasonal issue. Yet it has set us thinking about productivity generally, and why so many companies and institutions stick to the same modus operandi regardless of any changes in external conditions.
Long, hot summers – which, amazingly as it may seem now, were a regular feature of capital life in the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s – are often greeted by corporate London as little more than an opportunity to sweat in a suit. Meetings are held in the same conference room for decades, regardless of the preferences of either the host or the client being seen. Staff, demotivated by years of toiling in an office with an uninspiring location, are not permitted – even in the epoch of the mobile telecommunications revolution – to work in a more interesting building even for one afternoon in their company career.
Human beings may to some degree be creatures of habit, but blind obedience to pointless protocol is rarely going to engender any spectacular results in the domain of workplace (or indeed academic) productivity. Stumbling through days, weeks or longer periods with little or no regard to whether current working practices do at least the courtesy of lip service to practicality and comfort is an unfortunate norm that no business, other institution or individual can afford to perpetuate.