One of the most inspiring ideas I’ve come across recently is an idea I got from a book about changing office culture and how we work. The book is the terribly-named, but fantastically-important, Why Work Sucks and and How to Fix it.
It describes a new way of working, called a Results Oriented Workplace Environment. At its core, it’s about not thinking about hours or “facetime”, it’s about trusting people to get their work done, no matter what it looks like they are doing, or how much time they spend. It talks about the illusion of management where you think you know what your co-workers or employees are doing, because you can see them at their desks. In reality, you have no idea what they’re getting done, and it’s more effective to measure the results, and forget all about “presenteeism”. The most tantalizing nugget they describe is a guidepost called Make every day feel like Saturday.
On Saturdays, I’m usually busy and quite productive. This is because I know that as soon as I get my chores and tasks done, I get the rest of the time for myself. So I get a lot done, but I also get to linger a bit over morning coffee, engage a random stranger in conversation, or have a glass of wine in a sunny spot outside. I’ll make some personal calls in between projects, errands, and exercise, but still have time for some socializing, gaming or staring off into space at a cafe. This seamless intermingling of personal and work feels more holistic than a regular work day and it feels fantastic. I feel stimulated, excited, and generally in flow, as I know I’m making my life better in all areas, and making good choices about my time. This is how entrepreneurs and freelancers spend all their live and allows you to be hyper-efficient, but also live your life your fully.
For many, Mondays (and by extension, Sundays) are filled with dread and Fridays are anticipated. Wednesdays are “hump” days, which makes you agonize over your time, hoping the work week will speed up and the weekends will slow down. This is no way to live. We also hold off our dreams until retirement, which is a future that may never come. Even if it does come, often we no longer have the energy or physical capabilities to embark on those dreams we delayed. The results seems to be endless yearning, and a longing for our days to be different then they are, and us becoming ungrounded. Time is alternately too slow and too fast, and we live our lives feeling out of balance and out of control.
What if we stopped thinking of work as separate from our personal life? What would that look like? Or put another way, how could we accept our lives fully, and make every day feel like Saturday? Here are some ideas:
- Employers give complete control over employees spend their time, including where they spend their time. No one judges anyone else for coming “late” or getting sick.
- Everyone has clear and measurable expected objectives, goals and results. These expectations and heuristics are missing from most job descriptions and many sprints. But without them, you can feel lost, or unsure if you’re getting enough done, often resulting in working more (generally with diminishing returns).
- Work starts to feel more like a personal project. Even when the tasks are menial, you get a lot of satisfaction from completing them.
- You stop doing unnecessary work completely. Any time spent on work that isn’t getting results is time you could’ve spent on personal projects, or simply enjoying life.
- Your time becomes yours. You are free to go grocery shopping when there are no lines in the middle of the day. Or maybe you have a conference call at midnight because it’s really important to coordinate with someone.
- You get to view your life holistically, and don’t have to make trade-offs between your personal life and work life.
- You are no longer on the deferred life plan, and possibly lessen or stop worrying about, and saving for, retirement. This frees you up to enjoy your life more right now. A happy retirement isn’t about idleness: it’s about flow and joy, which we’ve just figured out how to have right now, without waiting for a future that may never come.
- You become happier immediately, which is correlated with productivity gains (instead of happiness coming from “success”).
- Finally, you fall head over heels in love: with your job. You don’t take it for granted, and you become more passionate about it. You never want to lose the freedom that comes with it. This is a critical long-term success factor for businesses.
Work can be unique, special and thrilling. Surely, being part of a creative team making a video game is a very rare and exciting opportunity. After all, you can’t just pay money for the opportunity to make a game with a talented group of people. We need to change the implicit rules of the workplace so we can feel deep in our bones, just how special it is.