Category Archives: Careers

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

Work From Home: The Meaning Of Space

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

I was listening to the book Atomic Habits, when the author spoke about space that one works in. That got me thinking about what the spaces we live and work in mean for us while working from home during the Pandemic.

Sure, we’ve all heard the advice on space usage. Have different spaces for different things like work and gaming. Don’t have work stuff in your bedroom. If you can’t have separate spaces have separate zones, and so on. Have one place one use.

But now we’re stuck indoors. We’re probably Working From Home (WFH)

We’re not able to go out to other spaces.

And there’s a chance you’re working, eating, sleeping, cooking, and binge-watching Netflix under restrained conditions.

So what does space mean to us now? What will it mean to us afterwards? When we WFH more, what will we do to rethink our homes and spaces? Honestly, we’re not ready for it.

But more WFH means we have to be. Because bad use of space is bad productivity and not good for us mentally.

So a few thoughts

  1. Organizations moving to more WFH need to do research and provide advice and equipment so people use space effectively. We can’t count on people to do it effectively because they’re doing it turning a traumatic time. They may need some help.
  2. We ourselves need to figure out how to WFH and make best use of space. This doesn’t mean just reading a book. We need to help each other out, be supportive, share advice.
  3. If you’ve tried shopping for certain office supplies, then you’ll notice some are hard to come by. Will this change? Probably – but we’ll want to plan our purchases ahead, and maybe look at discount and used office supplies (that may pile up with the changes).
  4. Once the Pandemic is under control (I expect it to become like the flu) the meaning of public spaces will change. There may be more people working at the library, a park, a coffee shop, etc. People may want or need different spaces, and there may be more of them (I’ve had many a writing session move due to a crowded coffee shop)
  5. All our other relations will change as we work from home – what we’re experiencing now is the intense, involuntary reminder. We may know our neighbors more, we may want our kids out more, our marriages will change, etc. We need to start learning now – voluntarily, as opposed to the way this was forced on us.

We’re going to have to think aboutspace in the new world of more Work From Home. We may be tired of being in the same space, but that just means we have more to consider . . .

Steven Savage

Work From Home: Different Experiences

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

I know. I keep thinking “hey, I’m about done with this,” then some new wrinkle shows up and next thing you know, blog post. I also like it as some of my career advice has aged out, but this is relevant and fresh and helpful.

I was chatting with some friends about our different experiences in Work From Home (WFH) and then something struck me. As much as many of us are WFH, as many of us have done WFH . . . we’re often forgetting just how diverse people’s experiences are.

One friend of mine has done it for two decades. Another had remappable experiences. I had done it on and off for two decades and had participated in WFH experiments. It was interesting comparing notes.

It also struck me that as WFH becomes more normalized we’re going to need to keep this in mind to adjust.

As we move to WFH we have to appreciate our experiences are different than other peoples. There are things we know and things we don’t know. Things we can handle and things we can’t. Any move to WFH is going to require people to cultivate some personal awareness so we can develop, learn, and unlearn.

Also we’ll have to be aware that others have different experiences than us when it comes to WFH. We may find someone who know more and we should listen. Others may need psychological tips from us to navigate unknown waters. We’re going to need empathy and humility.

Some of our co-workers won’t have the above knowledges or sensitivities, and we’ll have to educate them. Hopefully we can do so either formally or appropriately, but I’m sure there’s already been plenty of WFH-based temper flareups. These will keep occurring.

Finally, this giant science/business experiment is happening during a pandemic. We’ll have to relearn and reapply our lessons all over again when things calm down (which is probably 9-12 month at my guess).

I’m terribly concerned right now that the continuing WFH that’s going on hasn’t had enough` effort by people to assess different experiences. I mean it’s sort of understandable – we got thrown into this fast – but that still means there’s a problem.

This is something I also need to sit with myself. I don’t think I fully assessed the different experiences and challenges people have faced. I need to understand my friends, family, and co-workers a bit better.

So for now?

  1. Realize your WFH experiences aren’t others.
  2. See who you can learn from regarding WFH.
  3. See what you can teach about WFH.
  4. Have empathy for people who are adjusting to WFH.
  5. Be ready to have to face changes to WFH because of how we did this.

Steven Savage