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Metrikus Meets... Corinne Murray, Founder of Agate Studio

Part Two: 'How can we negotiate a future that's going to make employees happy?' 

What has been your biggest failure?

Honestly, I think the biggest failure were the times through my career that I tried to square peg myself into a round hole and convince myself that it was me who needed to conform rather than me find something that was a better fit. 

Part of that was through fear and not quite knowing what direction I was going in. Being a broker was not the right fit, and for me, being at a really big corporation was not a good fit. Being at an architecture and design shop was not a good fit for me either. So it was the biggest failure but also the greatest opportunity, and the best lesson that's come out of it is having a really clear sense of what I am good at, what I believe my purpose is and what types of environments really make me feel successful and effective. But that takes a lot of work. I attribute a lot to going to therapy – things like recognising that it's your fault or responsibility if you don't fit somewhere. Being able to see that on the other side of that hill is a huge privilege and something I'm very very grateful for, but you know it's really brutal to try to do that to yourself.

What’s something that you think we’ve learned from the pandemic era that we should bring forward with us? (It can be literal or more figurative!)

For me, I think one of the greatest observations has been the growth and strength of employee acumen around what they're entitled to. And granted, we're unfortunately already seeing some that are taking it to a degree too far. But in general, people are getting a better handle on the idea that I've been hired to work 40 hours a week, and my value – not just from a monetary standpoint – but the quality of the work that I do tends to drop off a cliff after hour 50. 

People are getting a better handle of the literal science around this, and figuring out how to transpose that into their personal experience as a worker, and knowing where their limits are, knowing when it's the right time for them to log off, knowing that job negotiations are more than just compensation and benefits and PTO. 

And there's no way that that goes away: it's Pandora's Box. We have entered a new realm of people understanding what a company should be providing to set them up for the greatest amount of success. That's the formula that I hope more companies will start to pay attention to, and also more employees start to give more attention to. 

Just recently, Germany ruled that employees are not inherently entitled to work anywhere in the world, which some people were really upset by. There's a lot of tax implications around working around the world that I don't think a lot of people have a layman’s understanding of – I certainly don't! And Germany is probably one of the best protectors of individual rights in the world, so the fact that they said, it's not actually your human right to work wherever in the world for as long as you choose, I think is an extremely helpful boundary that the rest of the world can use as a marker. 

But what is really interesting to me is that a company can say, hey we're gonna bake it in as part of our employee employee programming that you can opt in to do this for one month, a year. We've figured out the taxation piece that will allow you to do that for 30 days, and you can do it contiguously, you can do four separate weeks in other places: that to me is a really cool employee benefit. And then the company gets to say we have our arms around it now. 

So there's so much more learning to be done, but I also think we're starting to grow out of the employees-get-whatever-they-want phase, and getting more into what's going to be something that's mutually beneficial, or how can we negotiate this future that's going to make employees happy. 

And companies are probably going to be a little reticent – because a lot of companies would rather just continue on like it’s 2019 because it's easier, and it's going to be less expensive. So I fully understand the motive there, but I think where we're arriving is that there are going to be some policy-based boundaries of what's possible and what people are asking for. That's going to actually force some really constructive negotiations around what's possible and what isn't. And I'm hopeful that at least this means we're at an inflection point where we can actually start taking more action than we have, because a lot of companies have just been sitting on their hands, afraid to make a bad move, or forced into make any move because of one reason or another, But this all started with people learning what they are entitled to, what they are deserving of and what companies need to provide them with. So that education, that knowledge doesn't go away, the more people speak about it freely.

And at the end of the day, it's for the better – it's a net benefit.

Do you wing it or plan?

It’s different modes for different days! I would like to say that I try to time block but I just don’t have that kind of discipline. My desk is constantly covered in post-it notes and every time I’m done with a task I just throw it in the recycling bin. So I guess that's my own work management system.

Who would be at your dream dinner party?

Elizabeth Warren because I admire her tenacity and willingness to fight for the underprivileged and pivot when she learns more.

Hilma af Klint because she understood that her work was ahead of her time and because I just want to know MORE.

Naomi Ekperigin because she’s one of my favorite comics and never ceases to make me laugh.

What positive impact are you trying to make on the world?

I’m trying to create more harmony between the relationship of a company to its people. It doesn't need to be as parent and (rebellious) child as it currently is. I think that a lot of good can come from figuring out how to afford people more autonomy, and companies can still get a lot of benefit from it. 

You can find Corinne Murray on LinkedIn, and check our Agate Studio here

If you have someone you think we should speak to for Metrikus Meets – maybe it’s you! – then drop an email to caitlin@metrikus.io with their (your!) name and what you think we could chat about!