Leaders Know the World of Work is Changing (Part 1)

Around the time I changed careers, 2008-2010, I discovered the book The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.

This recent article in the New Yorker reminded me of that book. Consider reading the article to learn more.

However, I found some of the suggestions and concepts interesting enough to share here. One area of interest I still follow is advice on is time management, especially outsourcing tasks, managing email, and limiting media exposure.

Additionally, the idea of not waiting until retirement to do cool things, like travel, inspires me. Ferriss promotes the idea of a “dreamline” rather than a “timeline.”

But working four hours per week?

One premise I didn’t buy into was only wanting to work four hours per week. I like working. At the time I read the book, I was a band director. I loved that work, then I moved toward training and consulting, work I also love.

But I watched for opportunities to adopt some of the big ideas (lifestyle design, rejection of the “proper” 40-hour week) and some of the practical ones (outsourcing aspects of work to others, identifying the most impactful uses of time, applying 80/20 to gathering information, task-batching, and minimizing choice). If any of those make you curious, I recommending reading the book or checking out Ferriss’ website. There is a lot of information out there, but I want to stick to the point of this post, which is changing the world of work.

The 40-hour workweek.

I know a woman who climbed in her career, from a case worker to the director in a non-profit agency. Whenever she was offered a raise, she negotiated a smaller pay increase and asked to spend fewer hours at the office. Gradually, she increased her position at the organization while spending more time living life. She did really good work, and eventually she got promoted to the top job.

Many people have written about the origin of the 40-hour workweek and how it’s not based on human productivity. My fascination with this topic started when I watched as a woman reduced her hours a few decades ago and thought, “Wow, she’s onto something.” This concept continued to stay in my mind as I started my own business, working 40-60 hours some weeks and 20-25 hours other weeks. Ferriss’ book came along at the right time.

And then, Covid.

I’ve heard it said that Covid didn’t change the world of work; instead, it accelerated trends already in motion. Remote work and flexible hours became standard in the early days of the pandemic. But it wasn’t overly radical; online tools and HR systems were already available, just not widely used. 

Now, and this may be an oversimplification, I see two “sides” emerging:

  1. The pandemic is ending, and we need to get back to what we did during the “Before Times.” Let’s get back to the office, standardize hours, and do what we know works.
  2. Trends have accelerated, and it’s time to lean in. Let’s figure out what to keep and what to change. How can we grow our organizations and increase productivity while allowing flexibility of where and when and how work gets done?

I hear the phrases “nobody wants to work anymore” and “we can’t find anyone good” from people who seem to trend toward the first side. I don’t hear them from the second. 

What are you seeing?

Next week, we’ll dig into current trends and opinions on what we need to lean into in 2022.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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