The 4 Day Work Week?

(This column is posted at 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: Work From Home Training

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

And the series continues. I guess because I have A Lot Of Thoughts on this.

Me, I’ve worked from home (WFH) a lot, and I’ve had friends who have done it for over a decade. We’ve got certain work from home skills and abilities, that we probably don’t see as we’re used to them. I realized that recently, and it came to me that as we do more WFH people will need training to do it – and people probably aren’t ready.

How many of us actually are skilled at working from home? Because, in a world where WFH is comparatively rare, it means some of us lack the skillset – yes it’s a skillset.

Consider what WFH Skills include:

  • Time management on your own. Not as easy when you’re remote.
  • Phone etiquette and phone technology. Look, do we even use our phones for calls? When is it time to just text?
  • Proper use of chat programs as you can’t swing by desks. I’m talking not just sending messages, but replying.
  • Proper use of email as folks need to rely on it more (and trust me, a lot of us are terrible at it).
  • Proper use of tools for collaboration like Jira, Rally, and such. Those are even more vital for collaboration.
  • Use of documentation tools and proper use of documentation. Being able to hand someone a document is great for communication, but not if your writing is horrible.
  • Business processes and the like – because you can’t yell over your cube to ask someone “how do I do this?”
  • The psychology and manners of working from home.

Even typing that list i feel both exhausted and appreciative of those with good work from home skills. I’m sure you could write books on the skills, or run classes. Speaking of . . .

Organizations will need to ensure people are trained for WFH. The skills above need to be acquired by folks for any organization that wants or needs more WFH. These need to be learned intentionally; we’re in a rapid shift, and you can’t just hope people pick it up over time.

Note I say Organizations plural – because even in the post covid age, there will be more WFH for everyone. The business you work for will need this training, sure. But this will also be your church or temple, the con you do cosplay events for, and maybe even your gaming group. Every organization out there needs to be ready to teach people how to work from home.

This also means that there will be a whole new range of opportunities for people to write, teach, and educate. We’ll need guides and consulting services and people to teach work from home. Organizations will need to develop ways to improve WFH processes – or hire people that do. In fact, this might be a great chance for you to share your WFH knowledge with others!

But we’re going to need to train people to WFH, everywhere, and provide that education. This may be a bigger shift than people are ready for – but being ready is something we’ll need to be. WFH is here, there will be more, and in an age of climate change and pandemic, we’ll need to adapt.

It’s time to get educated.

Steven Savage

Rethinking Work

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

I was thinking about this recent tumblr post about moves to an even shorter workweek. This got me thinking about the benefits of an even shorter workweek.

I wanted to discuss that one of the problems is how much we define ourselves by work, that is, what we do for pay. In America, it’s become a problem.

Work Defines And Destroys

How much of our lives are consumed by work and by overtime? By preparing for work and recovering from stress and too-long days? By searching in an ever-uncertain economy? Work often dominates our lives.

How many of our conversations are about work? Do you ever introduce yourself by a modified version of your job title? Is the job the first thing we discuss socially?

How much of our news is about the economy and jobs, while at the same time abstractly missing how shitty work is for so many people?

Work dominates our lives, and we don’t seem all the better for it. It seems to be literally killing us.

Work Limits Focus

Work also limits our focus on what matters. When we boil things down to hours work, money paid, company profits we miss that there are many other things that matter or matter more. Life is more than DJIA returns but we don’t make any effort to measure it as we think in terms of *work*

It doesn’t take much effort to find out that, in America, a lot of stuff is messed up. Obesety rates, health issues, etc. But how much effort goes into asking how dollars flow around abstractly (and rarely flowing to people that NEED it).

Work Can Corrupt People

Now let me confess what I am about to say is stuff I am guilty of. We can make work into a vortex that sucks everything up. How are we eating so we work better. How are we learning so we can work better. Can our hobbies pay off? We think about work so often we miss that some stuff just doesn’t involve work.

Me, I’m guilty of this in my own way due to my big thing about geeky careers. Now, I don’t think the idea of hobbies-used-for-careers is BAD, but I’m realizing I need more emphasis on fun, social bonding, etc. I don’t want to be part of the problem.

Work Distracts From Other Issues

Work distracts us from other issues. We’re burnt out from the day, trying to get a training session in, and are doing a job search on the side to get a less crappy job. This time could be spent socially bonding, in our community, doing stuff that’s not our jobs that benefits others. But we focus on the job.

How many of our political choices relate to that job and not to the larger picture (which might make our jobs easier)? How many of them are worried about having work the next year?

We Need To Rethink Work

We need to rethink Work while also being realistic. Yeah, we work – we all have to work, its part of contributing to society, making stuff happen, and earning our keep. I am PRO-WORK – I’m just not so sure our current idea of jobs is helping.

First, I think we have to reclaim “work” from “job.” There’s a “job” that you do and then there’s “work” you do. A job may pay you, working at a church social is “work” but has other benefits.

A few things:

  • We should ask if we’re defined by our jobs and our work and how. Some people, like a doctor, ARE often defined by their job. Some are broader, like myself who’d write and manage no matter what – my “work” and “job” are different. Some people aren’t their job 80% of their lives and should define themselves differently.
  • We should learn to think about social and political issues outside of money – though often the issues involve who gets it so there’s only so far away we can get. Still maybe it’s important to not ask if the DJIA is the end-all-and-be-all of thing.
  • We should damn well think about money and politics when it’s messing up our lives, as we’ve been discussing things like irrational CEO compensation and the like.
  • We need to learn to not turn everything into a job, consider if something is worth the “work,” and have fun. Think more of the social roles we play over job.
  • We can’t let work distract us from what’s important and the larger picture.

Me, going forward, I’m going to try to think of myself as more than my job and about work. Oh, I still intend to focus on being a geek job guru, but I need to emphasize more thats just a thing *I* do, and to learn to focus on larger issues. I also need to ask when something is “work”, a job, and both.

Any feedback is appreciated.

– Steve