Are you expected to sit in the office?
The factory called office
If you have a factory it is pretty obvious that putting more hours and more labor and investing to new production line will increase the output of your factory. This of course translates to more sales given you are able to sell the goods. Since the beginning of the 20th century industrial and manufacturing era this principle has been applied. Unfortunately it has been applied to office work as well without questioning it. The common belief and largely adapted practice was and largely still is that longer you sit in the office more you achieve and produce. As a matter of fact you probably produce more but do you really achieve more?
Full time employment
As in the factory, also in the office, people are usually employed full time. As they are employed full time, they are expected to stay in the office full time too. There are incentives set up to steer people to do the right things, in the other words to deliver and achieve. However the incentives are often quite small compared to the fix pay. This does not necessarily motive enough. I am not saying that the incentive should be higher but I am rather proposing that the whole full time employment culture should be reconsidered. What do I mean? Lately I have been speaking with many people about their opinion about full time employment. Many of them have expressed that they are only moderately motivated in their job. Large part of then cannot really use their talent and natural tendencies to full extend. Some are only staying in the job because they do earn easy money. There are a lot of complaints about doing the wrong things which do not contribute to the mission of the company at all.
I was curious about finding out their opinion about the “factory called office” and I asked the following question from all of them: “Would you be happy to trade 50% of your salary against 50% more free time?” In the other words instead of working full time working only 2-3 days a week. The majority of the questioned answered positively. Even more surprisingly most of them very sure that they could achieve the same results with 50% of the time if the non-productive practices were removed. Excuse me, but isn’t this a vast waste of time and talent?
There are surely plenty of alternatives to full time employment. Here are two of the possibilities:
1. Part time employment
You could employ a person for instance for 50% of his or her time. This person could use the rest of the time to work for some other employer, within given limitations of competition etc of course. This would give you and the other company great deal of diversity and new ideas. Alternatively the person could dedicate the 50% of the time to his or her family, hobbies or self development. You may be asking: ok, but 50% time won’t be enough to do the job! Believe it, in most cases will. Of course you have to reconsider your processes an focus on the things that contribute to your business goals. Furthermore if the 50% of the time is not enough, you can always employ another person 50% of his or her time to do the rest. I am absolutely positive there would be plenty of people willing to work in this mode.
2. Project based employment
The further step would be to focus on the targets only. Why not setting up clear projects and employing part time or project based employees and experts to deliver the results on-demand basis. Define clear targets and deliverables, agree what it costs to deliver and when it should be ready. Yes, you surely have tried it in small scale like employing a few consultants every now and then, but I mean using this as a main mode of operation. The challenge is, of course, that you must know what you are doing, where you are going and what the priorities of your company are. If these facts are not clear it is going to be difficult to define the targets and deliverables.
My hypothesis is that our world is going towards more and more consumer to consumer commerce and toward the use of expertise on-demand basis. This applies especially to “white collar” office work. Part of my hypothesis is also that the full time employment will be less and less attractive from the company point of view and will therefore be decreasing. The ever increasing pressure for cutting costs will boost this development sooner than we think. Instead of keeping the factory called “office” artificially alive, would you like to be the forerunner on the new era of employment? What kind of innovative alternative model you have? Why not giving it a try?