Get a Load of This Microsoft Office 365 Ad

Sometimes on social media you follow or are friends with a person who makes you think, “Why do I follow this person?” Then a little gem drifts through your timeline courtesy of their sharing or retweeting and you remember why. That’s how I became aware of this:

This ad for Microsoft’s Office 365 comes from the Twitter feed of @JasonCross00, whom I personally do not follow, but evidently I follow someone who does and they retweeted it. And thank goodness for that, because it’s been a while since I found myself laughing incredulously while my jaw sat on the floor.

I can’t not break this thing down. Here’s a larger version of the pic if you want to follow along.

“#GetItDone: Office workers want technology to help them get things done anywhere, sunrise to sunset”

First of all, that hashtag is veering dangerously close to “git’r’dun” territory, though that’s a minor and admittedly personal quibble. Let’s not bury the lede in this nugget, though: “Office workers want technology to help them…”

What? You say my work is intruding on my private life? Pish-posh! Fiddle-faddle! You could not be more wrong, sir or madam. I actually want to be doing work things when I’m not at work! This is what I want for my life! Because work is life. If I’m not working, I’m not living! And how can I make my living if I’m not working? I want this, you see. I am an office worker, and that is what we aspire to, no more and no less.

“Getting work done is easy from any room in the house. 19% have worked when they were going to the bathroom.”

Starting semi-normal here: smart. Working at home sounds like the pits in the first place, but if it has to be done, the bathroom isn’t the craziest place ever, and is justifiable to a certain extent. The bathroom provides built-in solitude, assuming you don’t live or work with rude people, and if you’re able to keep yourself from getting distracted by all the fun stuff on your laptop and/or phone, it could work. I personally couldn’t stay in there too long though, because if I sit on the toilet for more than about 15 minutes my legs fall asleep all the way up to my waist and I walk like the Tin Man, if he was extremely afraid of falling down and hitting his head on a countertop.

“Connected commuters make for productive workers. More than 1/3 have worked while commuting to or from work.”

If you’re on a train like in the picture or a bus, I’d say working on your commute is an okay idea. Public transportation is generally not the kind of place where you want to converse with your fellow human being. You want to create that bubble around yourself, burying your nose in your work is one way to do it. I’d slip in my earbuds and listen to music, since I prefer any time I’m not at work to be spent not thinking about work.[1] Obviously this isn’t tenable if you drive, though I’m sure that hasn’t stopped some people from trying.

I can understand fitting a little work in on your commute, but I also feel like this is where this ad’s disconnect from sanity starts becoming faintly visible.

“Whether in an office park or a national park, you can still participate in meetings. 47% have worked when they were on vacation.”

Now this is nutty. If you’ve ever worked on vacation, you need a soul refreshing. I don’t care how successful I get or how much work I do in the bathroom or on the train, my vacation is going to be my time for me and my family. That’s time you intentionally request not to work because you need a break from work. But no, yeah, let’s do more work during that time.

Who has time to bask in the splendor of nature when there are meetings to be attended? Sightseeing? The only sight I see is Mr. Shartson’s face on my video chat! Sorry honey, can’t look at that rare endangered animal that will probably be extinct within a decade, I have to listen to Mr. Shartson bloviate about share prices, and if I miss any of this I will be very behind when I get back, do you understand? Yeah, I guess that waterfall looks heavenly, but have you seen these sales figures?!?

“You don’t have to miss your kids’ game or recital when you can work anywhere. 20% of parents said they have worked at a child’s event or activity.”

This makes me feel rotten about even just screwing around on my phone when I’m at one of Jon’s events. This picture guts me, because the kid in it is playing soccer, which is exactly the sport Jon currently plays. How did the copywriter not immediately run into the living room after composing that sentence and sweep her children up in a giant hug? How did the graphic designer not tie a noose around the railing of his apartment’s balcony and jump off?

This picture raises so many observations and questions. Notice the dark brooding silhouette of the businessman against the angelic white silhouette of his son. Is the man even watching? The silhouettes make it unclear.[2] Where is the goalie? Is he working from the bench?

I don’t often indulge in pearl-clutching and ostentatious worry about “the children” and who is or isn’t thinking about them, but this right here—this is a one-way ticket to a kid with issues, and when your kid doesn’t want to come visit you in the nursing home, don’t even pretend like you don’t know why.

“Get work done while enjoying that happy hour appetizer. 27% have worked when they were out to eat.”

If you’re alone, sure, fine, whatever. But I already do enough of a dance deciding when it’s okay to be on my phone at a restaurant with company and when it’s not. I can’t imagine working while someone else is at the table with you, and there is clearly a second person at the table in this ad. With the phone, if they call you out on it and say why is the phone more important than them, you can at least argue that whatever is on the phone is not important and it was just some silly or amusing thing that happened to catch your eye. But if you’ve got a laptop or some paperwork out and you’re working while you’re at lunch with someone else, you’re flat-out disrespecting that person, and Alt+Tab ain’t gonna save you. “Sorry, no room for the fajitas. What? I’m still hungry. I meant on the table.”

“No need to record your favorite show when you can work on the couch. 44% have worked when they were watching TV.”

I definitely draw a line between active watching and passive watching, and I say if you’re bathed in the glow of your laptop, then you’re not really “watching” TV. Also, is a show really your “favorite” if you can tune it out and do work while it’s on? And if I don’t need to record my favorite show, then why am I paying for this premium 2TB of HD DVR storage? That money can go toward more uneaten happy hour appetizers!

“Multitasking takes on new meaning when you can work flexibly. 27% have said they worked while they were in bed.”

This might be my favorite scene in the whole ad. As with the soccer dad, it’s not entirely clear what’s going on here. Is the man zonked out face-down, his hands only releasing their inexorable grip on the tablet after succumbing to sheer exhaustion? Or is he hiding his work from the unseen partner on the other side of the bed, waiting for him/her to drift off into deep sleep before pulling out the work tablet he’s discreetly hidden under the bed in the wake of vague threats of marriage counseling or divorce? The work has continued from sunrise to bedtime; why should it stop there? Office isn’t just 365: it’s also 24, and seven. I wanted to say this one has been kind of normalized by television, but I think I’m thinking of people reading in bed.

* * *

In Japan they have one of those delightful words that says in one what English takes at least three or four to work out. In this case, that word is karōshi. It translates literally as “death from overwork”. You work yourself silly, you forgo proper food and rest, and your body gives out. It’s tempting to say that this advertisement proves American society has reached that point, but the reality is far worse: they’ve built up an immunity to karōshi. And if the ongoing saga of watching more and more video games parcel out features that used to be a given for inclusion in a game as DLC has taught me anything, we’re going to keep on shoveling that garbage down our gullets and we’re going to do it with a big toothy grin on our faces, because we’re Americans in the 21st century and that’s what we do.

[1] This is one of the few luxuries of a low-level retail job. I understand, however, that this may not be possible for the kind of work the Office 365 ad is suggesting.

[2] I say he isn’t.

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