The 20 – or should it be 4? – hour work week!

Book Cover

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:

  1. Working from home I found that just routine admin and maintenance of my working environment and IT used up a few hours a week
  2. A few more hours were used up on team meetings and status reports
  3. Lots of hours were consumed by keeping up to date with my specialist skills and knowledge
  4. 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:

  1. I still have plenty of free time
  2. My work life and home life are nicely in balance
  3. 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:

  1. less travel
  2. more efficient home working environments
  3. improved IT driven productivity
  4. 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!

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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