Fun fact: back in the 1930s, economists were predicting we’d all be working six-hour weeks by now because of the advancement of technology.
Well, we got all that technology (more coming), and we’re actually working more than ever.
This all comes at the expense of two things:
- Science (uh), which has indicated 55 hours/week is a hard ceiling for most people
- Work-life balance, which should be a strategic advantage in companies but isn’t
Is there a path out of this mess?
One caveat here up front
You will never eliminate the workaholic. It’s often seen as a good, pure way to become rich or prove your relevance. Workaholics ain’t going anywhere. There’s a skewed narrative out there that millennials will end the workaholic culture with their “passion over profit.” In reality, this is thought leadership bullshit created by “Oh God, I have a deadline for Forbes today?” Millennials will be bigger workaholics than Boomers, honestly. (Also, dirty little secret: everyone is different.)
The other caveat
The work week will naturally look a lot different if, uh, er, um, there’s no work.
OK, so now what?
Let’s try out this quote from a Stanford discussion on the future of work:
Future workers’ attitudes toward employment will be different from those of today’s workers, forcing companies to change how they recruit and retain. In a survey of college students, respondents indicated that they highly value work-life balance and are interested in working from home one or two days a week, says Roberto Angulo, chief executive of AfterCollege, a career network for college students and recent graduates. “Students are switching from living for their work and shifting more toward making a living so they can actually enjoy life,” he says.
All seems to make sense, yep. As briefly noted above, work-life balance should be a strategic advantage. Towers Watson has done some studies (at that last link) around that idea. Logical on face, right?
What the work week should look like in the future, ideally
- Within reason (depending on what you actually do), you can work from anywhere. Technology made seat time a relic. It’s just a tool of control for managers now. The argument “I need my team together” is useless for two reasons: (1) is that you can get them together for big meetings and (2) is that most research shows in-person teams perform worse because there’s more drama/politics.
- When you get your work done, whether that takes 12 hours or 52, you are done. If you want to dedicate extra time to finding new revenue streams for your boss, awesome. If you want to go watch your kids play soccer, awesome. You did the work stipulated, so if you found ways to do it more efficiently, you get that time back.
- Every year, your job role should be evaluated and adjusted upward. Not necessarily a raise, but new/differing responsibilities to some extent.
- Flexible work schedules are gonna be the norm, especially for new/younger parents.
Can we get to this?
We’re starting to. Good stuff.
In classic old-school orgs, absolutely not. Seat time and “productivity measures” and “I need to see what my employees are doing” will persist. Hat tip: those are awful managers, and awful places, to work for/at. Avoid them.
Eventually companies will replace people (a cost) and not want to run/manage multiple HQs (a cost). This will continue to move the needle on these topics.
We’re already at 85% of the global workforce not being engaged at work, so maybe we’ll eventually hit the mark of “Work is just a means to an end” in society. If we get there, put in your 15, manage your spreadsheets, get your check every few weeks, and live your life. Be a human, not a drone for The Man. That’d be cool, right?
What else you got on the concept of the work week?