Do you know about the age-old dream about how the 21st century was supposed to bring us a life of leisure compared to when various work rules and technologies were established? For instance, did you know the 8-hour workday, which is still the standard for most companies, was originally proposed in the late 1800s, but it didn’t become law for most countries until the early 1900s – nearly 100 years ago!
What about the first laptop, which was invented in 1986? It wasn’t something too impressive by modern standards, but it is still 30+ years that we have had the ability to do mobile computing once you factor in the World Wide Web timeline. Even the iPhone is 13 years old, which is nearing relic status with how fast technology moves.
There is precedent for improving both productivity and worker happiness with shorter weeks too. In 1913, Henry Ford used technology to make his cars faster and more reliable. To reduce turnover with this change, in 1914, he decided to increase the wages (doubled pay for many workers) and reduce working hours at the same time. Employee happiness skyrocketed, and he had lines around the block of people wanting jobs. This foresight lead to the emergence of the middle class.
I propose that as the younger population goes into the workforce, we consider the dreams of generations before us and use technology to help us establish those dreams. With technology like Microsoft Teams & O365, we can collaborate anywhere even using video chat to ensure that the team feels connected to each other. We can use tools like Azure DevOps to build and deploy solutions at any time of day without the worry that our production team is on holiday.
Recently, Microsoft decided to try their “Work-Life Choice Challenge” where they closed all their offices in Japan on Fridays for the month of August – without increasing the hours on the other days of the week, and although their work week went down by 20%, their productivity went up by 40%.
Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand recently tried a similar experiment, reducing hours to 32 but continued to pay full time. They found that employees were 24% more engaged in work-life balance and had the same productivity with reduced hours.
And the point I am trying to make is that they found using work from home made these even more impressive. Ctrip recently did a 2-year study with 500 employees that met the criteria for working at home – private workspace, broadband internet – and they found work from home to be even more beneficial. They found employees who worked from home had a productivity boost of nearly 20% over their non-work from home counterparts, while reducing attrition by 50%. The company also saved nearly $2000 per employee, per year due to reduced space requirements.
I propose companies should consider these results, and implement the following work environment:
- 1 day per week at the office – Staggered across employees 25% per day Mon-Thurs
- 3 days per week at home
- 3 days for the weekend.
- Using technology to automate, connect, and engage employees
I for one would volunteer not only for this type of work week and would love to help companies implement their O365 or DevOps transformations so they too can spread this to their employees. Here are some ways technologies enable the modern work week:
- Cloud-Native: This isn’t technically new, but at this point are you using enough? With the scale of services like Azure, you can be sure that your employees have what they need while being protected from hackers. And because cloud allows direct connection, you don’t need to worry about VPN hardware or data centers that need installation and setup: Cloud is designed to be safe, secure, and accessible remotely.
- Collaboration Tools: Using tools like Slack, you can build out the ability for teams to work together through chat applications and document sharing. You could also go further though with subscriptions built around common collaboration. Teams is based on Skype, SharePoint, and OneDrive. Using comprehensive tools like this allows for meeting schedules, teleconferencing/telephony with video, robust file sharing including simultaneous editing of documents, and even the ability to connect to other tools for extensibility. New companies like zoom are working to make this even better
- Software-as-a-Service / Platform-as-a-Service: Recently there has been a massive move in the industry to make software that is useful without the need to maintain it. This has enabled us to move away from tools like Project to more robust tools like Workday or Trello; Software collaboration through Azure-DevOps or GitHub; Customer tools like Salesforce. This will continue to push the boundaries of what needs us to sit in the office, and what can be done over coffee.
- Cell-Phones, Tablets, IoT & 5G: We cannot forget about those computers people carry around with them. With GPS, Calling, Nationwide Data, and installable applications it’s a fact of life that we are connected all the time. This is a huge benefit for a company because it means someone can work when it suits them, where it suits them, instead of having to commute to the office and sit in the same place all the time. But with the trends towards IoT and 5G we will have the ability to have extremely high speed wireless powering physical representations of remote objects. What is exciting about that is that it means more jobs are able to work remotely – A doctor could use robots from her mountain vista instead of having to end a vacation for an emergency surgery.
What technologies do you see contributing to this new reality of a modern work week, and how would you implement it as the manager of your teams?