No, I’ve no interest to talk about 4/10 work week because many people already work more than 10 hour a day even for 5+ day a week. 4DWW is inevitable. The question is when not if. Full disclosure: as an employee, I want it sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, I do sincerely believe it is a good thing for everyone, including employers for the long run. Or, at least for those highly capable companies. It’s a test if your company is 😉 Again, I’m helpless optimistic as usual, because the timing is about right.
To great leaders in Silicon Valley, lead the way please. Bonus: whoever makes it work first not only gets real advantages, but also the credit to shape the future. “That’s one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind. ” toward “Star Trek Utopia”.
The Beginning Of The End — WFH
It is more meaningful to talk about 4DWW long term benefits instead of its short term effects. Because, leaders should alway prioritize the long term over the short term. No matter what, or at least on big/difficult decisions. Why? This spring, IBM, once a pioneer is cracking down Work From Home. I’m not going to argue there is no benefit of “teamwork”. Some studies even suggest WFH increases productivity. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer in real world. It is so easy to blame a particular policy rather than focus on longer term fixes of the fundamental problems. Basically, it is an act to trade long term benefits for short term effects. Everybody does that from time to time even a great company. To be fair, it’s human nature and managers are just mortal. The point is when a company more frequently driven by short term fixes, it is typically a good signal of something else.
Smart creatives always have many choices. It will be even more so in the future. Whereas, a falling titan is not likely have many options. I do hope IBM gets what it wishes for. But, Yahoo’s “working side-by-side” in 2013 did not save Yahoo. And, I don’t see how that could work better for IBM this time. Note, I don’t have any 1st hand IBM knowledge nor experiment to tell if they have secret sauce to do the magic. Anyway, let’s hope more managers will learn something from these before next spring.
No matter how you model it, AI is going to kill a lot of jobs sooner rather than later. McKinsey’s study claims 30% (70 million) of jobs to be lost by 2030 in the U.S. It is a good thing for a lazy person like me. Because I’ve no interest to do algorithmic tasks nor to get a job on a production line. It’s called progress, e.g. an average worker can generate about the same output of 40 hrs in 1950 less than 11 hrs. The problem is the gap between the progress and the adaptation speed of workforce growing in an unprecedented rate. For majority, it becomes very difficult (if not impossible) to keep up the pace. This’s the biggest challenge for the society.
Time: The Final Frontier
We are reaching to the age that Time is “the real gold”. You can buy convenient, but not “creating more time”, unless you have a Time Machine. Unfortunately acceleration of change is a function of progress. Sundar Pichai: “As humans, I don’t know whether we want change that fast — I don’t think we do.” Unfortunately even if the “Force of AI” be with you, your choices won’t be simpler either. The opportunity cost of slowing down is simply too high. If one wants to stay in the club, the simple choice is working like crazy. Therefore, you see a few mitigation tactics common in the Valley. Such as: Flexible Work Schedules, WFH, famous Google 20%, Netflix: Unlimited Paid Vacation… They work effectively to some extent for capable companies. However, they won’t be sufficient in the future. We need to find new ways to tackle this, such as:
- Bill Gates’ Robot Tax. There are good points for some cases. But, I simply don’t like tax in general, because eventually they all translate to “human tax” one way or the other. Furthermore, tax and government have fundamental efficient problems.
- Basic Income: it is a good idea, e.g to help building career transition paths for unprivileged people. It is good indication on how advanced a civilization is. Because there is no way to even income inequality without bad consequences. A better alternative is to improve Social Mobility. It is kind of what American Dream marketing for. The catch is: it, fundamentally has to be paid by something. Starts with T.
4DWW is the best way forward in my opinion. Especially for those great company based on New Economy, e.g. Internet Consumer Services, those offer “Free” services/applications. Yes, I’m talking to you, the Silicon Valley Main Street. Dan Ariely kindly pointed out 20% (one form of 4DWW) makes happier, more passionate workers and a better, more creative company. To realize full potential of 4DWW, companies should take one more day off officially. There are many benefits, such as:
Real 20% instead of 120%
20%, Unlimited Paid Vacation & similar tactics are all good. Or, at least they are feel good motivation / innovation stimulus. However, there is a fundamental limitation. In short: holidays works better if everyone “gets” it. Speed & acceleration are the part of package in Tech. There is no going back to good old days even outside of Tech. With all Mobile & IT advances, it is impossible to detach from work even if you want to. Many people have been operated in 120% for 20%-ish projects in the Valley in reality already. More importantly, it is not just about you. Individual can not unplug due to peer pressure. Even if you can ruthless don’t care (not everyone “believes such wisdom”), there is penalty to the team and company as whole. Because an employee can block a lot of stuffs, if she/he is essential to get thing done.
Linear vs Network processing
Recruit and Retain Top Talents
Fact: even Tech giants can not get enough right talents. The short term advantage and the long term sustainability of an organization fundamentally depend on its members. Assuming, it does not purely governed by Great Brilliant Paramount Leaders. To motivate top talents, there is no silver bullet. But I dare you to try: set them up to great missions, challenge them to solve big problems, supply them Time/resource/support, and then get out the way to let them surprise you. Time is the only factor has hard physical limitation, at least for now ;) You can make time, but you can not create time. Same goes to top talents, they are real people too. And, they typically have the luxury to prioritize Time over others.
More Positive Externalities To Come
Econ 101: consumption is the dominate economic activity. When people has extra day, they consume something. When one consumes, it (a demand) triggers a chain of economic activities. Demands create jobs. Everybody win. Even better if someone decides to pursue a habit or do community services. Any hobby/passion contributes to creativity somehow. That’s why people values more well-rounded candidates in the Valley. To some extreme, boredom may benefit creative thought even. Trusted me, most Smart Creatives just don’t know how to stop creating something.
Leaders: it is up to you to boldly go where no one has gone before. I prefer Wed. off, what about you?
The opinions stated here are my own, not those of my company. Furthermore, considering them are thought experiments because the reality is more complicated & has more factors to be considered.