Category Archives: Career

The 4 Day Work Week?

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I’m going to put my geek job guru hat on for this column and discuss the idea of the four-day workweek. I’m sure we’ve all heard about Iceland’s experiments in such an arrangement. I want to go into how it’s possible to do so with little interruption – but there’s something else to address first.

Namely, a lot of current working arrangements are awful. People are underpaid, abused, work in bad conditions, etc. We must fix these things, and we must have a robust social safety net. Also, a four-day workweek would be good for mental health, period.

With that out of the way, let me explain why I think a four-day workweek is possible for many jobs. I believe that people can be just as productive, with some exceptions. I also don’t care about the exceptions because I think a four-day workweek is a good idea.

But, anyway, a four-day workweek is possible because many businesses and organizations burn a lot of time on useless stuff. Imagine if organizations worked to do things better and that saved time meant less time on the job?

FIXING MISTAKES IS A PART OF TOO MANY JOBS: And I’m not talking QA or editing, but fixing mistakes that should be rare. People burn cycles going over poorly filled-out forms, bridging gaps that shouldn’t exist, and so on. Ever know someone whose job boils down to “talk to people who don’t talk to anyone else?”

TOO MANY BUSINESS PROCESSES ARE TERRIBLE: The reason so much goes wrong is many business processes are awful. Endless forms with no guiding documents and poorly implemented reports suck up time. Many people waste time doing things that don’t work very well as no one wants to fix them.

MEETINGS: Somehow, in the last two decades, meetings got even further out of control. I suspect technology has made it even easier to schedule time-wasters – meetings with no point or where only a few people are needed. What if we, you know, had less?

USELESS TOOLS:  I remember being excited about business tools – programs, spreadsheets, etc. However, they may not solve problems and can even create more if they’re not the right ones. How many times did you give up on something and use Excel (the duct tape of tools).

NO IMPROVEMENT: Agile has taught me how to focus on improvement. However, a lot of businesses don’t seem to want to improve by, you know, improving. THere’s not much bottom-up feedback (like Agile) but plenty of consultants ready to take your money. In the end, it seems not enough changes anyway.

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY: I have heard this since . . . forever. It’s hard to know what’s going on in any large organization. This may not be nefarious – sometimes miscommunication happens. But when you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t plan.

BURNOUT:  All of the above leads to more people burning out. Burnout leads to failure, resignation, inefficiency, etc. If you had fewer of these problems, you’d have less burnout. Burnout makes bad things worse.

I firmly believe if organizations committed to a four-day workweek, many could make it happen by making things run better.

For fun, spend a week or two and ask yourself what tasks could be more efficient – or removed altogether. The answer . . . well, it won’t surprise you.

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It: Skill Portability

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Skill Portability is an book that comes out of a weird phase of my career writing. It’s a lovely little book, but one I didn’t intend to write until I thought about it.

Many years ago I had an obvious insight on my writing – a good writer keeps writing books. It improves skills, it shares knowledge, and it gets your name out there. As I wrote about careers as well as creativity, I asked myself “what more should I write.”

That’s when I realized that a major part of career advice is transferring skills between one job and another. This is important in general, but moreso for my audiences of fans and geeks – people who want to move their interesting skillset elsewhere. That’d be a great book . . .

. . . because I’d already written it.

Many, many years ago I had written a series of columns on transferring skills between jobs, careers, and even hobbies. I had thought of it as done, but really, sitting on my blog they weren’t doing much (and they’d aged a bit).

But reviving these columns? Expanding them and rewriting them? That had potential for a new book and for helping people even more.

But were they good enough? Well, yes – because I’d already had a system.

The columns themselves outlined a system to analyze how useful skills were – called DARE. It stood for Direct, Advantageous, Representative, or Enhancing – four categories of skills people have. A pile of columns is one thing that may or may not be “bookworkthy” – but one with a system? Something with structure can be built on.

An organized way of thinking about anything, from recipies to job skills, is something that people appreciate. A system allows people to easily understand and employ whatever you’re teaching them. A system also helps one structure something for communicating – like, say a book.

It didn’t take much to turn the columns into a more comprehensive book, and one that’s a nicely useful and light guide.

The real lesson here is that if you think of taking previous writing and expanding it, it helps if it has some organized format to begin with. A system like the above leads to a book. A short story with good structure can be the center of a novel. Structure is a sign you might want to take something farther.

Conversely, if you are writing something or creating something you might think of expanding, consider how it’s organized. Build a system to organize your writing. Put parts of a speech into a clear mnemonic. Something to give it form – because that form can be more easily built on.

Also I’m glad to write up this blog post – because it helps me see the value of the forms I build so automatically. This nice little book wouldn’t have existed without my habitual organization.

Hmmm, maybe another lesson on writing is write on why you write . . .

Steven Savage

Work From Home: Vacation An Time Off

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Oh gods, yes another column on Work From Home. I keep thinking I’m done, but I get a new insight and my Geek Job Guru side arises and here we are. I’m glad I can help you – and glad to my readers who tolerate my recent spate.

So recently I was planning some vacation, and my employer provides a handy dashboard for this. I quickly realized I had a lot more vacation time than I’d expected – 3-5 days more on top of the vacation I was saving and banking. The Pandemic had been so disruptive I had lost track.

Needless to say this was part of some jocular conversation between me and one of my co-workers. We began discussing what even is vacation during the lockdown? What is it from work from home?

. . . and then I told him I have to write this column. So there you go.

As we move more to Work from Home (WFH) we have to ask what any time off means anymore. Think about it.

With less commute time are we saving time? Will we use less time off – or indulge it more?

Is caregiving time off and such more relevant, less, or the same when you’re at home with the person who needs you?

Will WFH be more stressful or less? Will we want more time off or less? Myself I feel overall that a lack of commute and more time control is a little less stressful.

With WFH you could take work with you (but shouldn’t) further timeshifting time off. When do you actually go on vacation or otherwise take time off?

And my answer is I don’t know and wish I did.

This is the last thing we’re thinking about right now because of the Pandemic, but we’re going to have to really think about it in later 2021. First, because once we have the Pandemic under control and will want a damn break. Secondly because a lot of us will stay all or mostly WFH and need to think.

Again I don’t have answers, this is a huge blank starting me in the face. But I hope by bringing it up I get you to think – and share your ideas with me.

Steven Savage