Are practices like 40-hours/week, 9-5 work schedule, and permanent employment heading towards extinction?

So I had a conversation with one of my peers the other day and although I had similar talks in the past, I felt it worth writing about this particular event.

She currently works in a C-level position at a startup.

She called and said:

“Hmm, my boss called me and was excited to share the news that we could all go back to working full time.”

At that time, the company had reverted to reduced working hours, given the extensive impact of the pandemic. After working from home part-time for a couple of months, she had already gotten used to it. She then continued: “Dom, what if I don’t want to go back? How the hell do I tell my boss that I don’t want to go back full time?”

Initially, I was surprised to hear this. Most people choose to work at startups because you can get a different experience you do not get in other organizations. Enthusiasm, passion, hope, the fast-paced and diverse nature of work are all traits that are synonymous with startups.

This begs the question: Why don’t people want to come back?

Which brings us to the next two questions:

  • What can we do to make people want to come back?
  • What can we do to have people excited, eager for an email, call, text, or slack?

You know the kind of excitement I am talking about. The same people get when they camp outside or queue in line to see the latest Star Wars or to buy the new iPhone.

What should we as an organization and business do to ensure that our employees and customers are also queuing outside?

What should we be doing to have people saying “This is where I want to work! Here, because they have listened to and supported us throughout this crisis.”

Another thought occurred to me:

What is wrong with not wanting to work full time?

In this day and age, everyone has access to some of the most powerful productivity tools available. We, like many other organizations, have already been operating for months with many staff working part-time.

Is it better to prioritize quantity above quality? Is it really necessary to work full-time in order to achieve our goals? Are we at risk of alienating an army of high-quality, hard-working, talented individuals who could transform our business simply because they do not want to work 5 days a week, every week?

This begs a new question: What do we value?

Shouldn’t we be aiming for people that consistently excel?

Shouldn’t we strive to create settings in which our employees can thrive? Environments that have a direct impact on efficiency?

And finally, is it really necessary to measure whether or not people work full time in 2021?

I personally don’t care about full-time vs. part-time work. I believe it’s time to stop measuring productivity in hours spent on the job and start measuring employee success in terms of timely meeting their work goals.

I recall spending far too many days at my desk simply because I had to be there, even if I had completed my work for the day, week, or even month.

And I know what you’re thinking: “Why didn’t you ask for more work?” or “How come you didn’t take the initiative to work on other projects?”

Believe me, I did it plenty of times. However, too many times I heard: “Chill, relax, you’re making everyone else look bad!” So eventually you become institutionalized.

We should never fear being labelled an overachiever.

The point I am trying to make is this:

Why are we putting people in a position where they should choose between working full time or finding an alternative?

And, in doing so, do we alienate the ones we most need? Isn’t it better to have a great employee working part-time rather than losing them in the first place?

Looking back on my career, I can pinpoint plenty of instances where I left a particular position and sought a new source of inspiration because I felt under-challenged.

I frequently wonder what would have happened or how my career may have turned out if my boss at the time had just said: “Dom, if you are done with your job on Thursday, just go take the day off, maybe go to the beach, take that scuba diving course you mentioned”.

I think about parents, and how many of them would not have given up on their dream job if their employers had been more flexible in their work-life integration.

Just yesterday, I had a long-time friend, a recent dad, telling me that he is shifting to part-time, 20 hours a week. It fits in better with his new lifestyle choices and will allow him to spend more time with his daughter. The employer really supported him in his choice. In fact, the organization has been preparing for it over the last couple of months by training and upskilling other staff members to take over some of his tasks.

Sometimes, it may just be a matter of weeks or months, instances of minor priorities that are important to employees. It may be all they need to remain engaged and loyal to the organization.

I understand that some jobs/industries may require a 5-day workweek or 24/7 availability, but in my experience, when employees are given the freedom to choose their own tasks, plan their own schedules, and collaborate to meet weekly goals, they will more often than not find a way that works for everyone. More often than not, it results in a better solution than the one proposed by their leaders. More often than not, it results in increased employee autonomy, ownership, efficiency, and satisfaction.

So what’s wrong with having a C-level executive work part-time? Shouldn’t that be encouraged?

In some ways, wouldn’t that mean we’d have two or three more extra hands on deck? Maybe a couple more employees in our organization that we can now afford to hire, ready to step up if they are needed?

I am absolutely convinced that work-life integration is the way forward. A work world in which employees are empowered to contribute and think for themselves. To put it in Semco Style terms, a work world where employees are truly treated like adults. Responsible adults that are happy to solve challenges, contribute and come up with rational solutions that serve all stakeholders.

At the same time, I am left wondering, almost curious. How much great talent is out there who would love to work for your organization but maybe on a part-time basis. That person might be all you need to push the division to the next level. I hope we are not going to filter them out solely because they can get the job done in 3 days instead of 5…
I am going to leave you on this note with a lot of Food for Thought.

Cannot wait to hear your thoughts and comments in regards.

Back to you soon,