The 20 – or should it be 4? – hour work week!
Gartner have recently published a press release – Prepare Now, the 20-Hour Job Description is Coming – for a recent report that makes the case that:
By 2015, a significant increase in ‘less-time’ roles will increase the total number of knowledge workers and decrease the average number of hours each
Web worker daily ran a story on the press release and the comments make it pretty clear that few if any of the readers see the 20 hour work week anywhere near and I tend to agree.
A couple of years ago I was forced to work a 20 hour week due to medical restrictions, at first I enjoyed it but it quickly became apparent that 20 hours is just not enough time to do the knowledge worker role I had:
- Working from home I found that just routine admin and maintenance of my working environment and IT used up a few hours a week
- A few more hours were used up on team meetings and status reports
- Lots of hours were consumed by keeping up to date with my specialist skills and knowledge
- This left perhaps only 5-10 hours of actual work and it just Wasn’t enough!
I am now feeling better and able to work close to a typical 40 hour week and this seems more practical:
- I still have plenty of free time
- My work life and home life are nicely in balance
- I have the flexibility to work around my health challenges
So my feeling is that what’s coming is not so much a 20 hour week, but more likely a 40 hour week in place of the 60 hour weeks that people currently work, and mainly because of:
- less travel
- more efficient home working environments
- improved IT driven productivity
- ability to splice work and home activities to take advantage of “dead” time to do work and “work time” to do household chores and family/personal “opportunities” – meals with the family, sports day etc
In fact that’s what the press release actually seems to focus on:
“As IT becomes woven into the fabric of people’s lives and traditional work-home boundaries are rendered obsolete, digital free-agency will emerge,” said Mr Prentice. “CIOs need to prepare for the arrival of this new work phenomenon, which is being driven by political, social and technology changes.”
Digital free-agency is a term coined by Gartner to describe how people are blending professional and personal computing requirements in an integrated environment.
One final point though, I have just read the 4 Hour work Week by Tom Ferriss and he makes the key point that we all spend way too much time doing tasks that could be outsourced to a personal assistant, and given that personal assistants in India right now have degrees I think he makes a very good point! Tom’s book is not really targeted at the knowledge worker though but it’s still worth checking out some of the podcasts!