Monday, September 27, 2004

80-Hour Workweeks Are Bunk

An extension of the discussion of Balance vs Big Bucks from Evelyn Rodriguez, who also wrote wisely about a book I'm reading on a truly innovative approach to work. She quotes the CEO, who sets the tone for his entire organization:
"Semler himself says, 'I've halved my work hours to about 30 a week, I spend 80% of my time doing what I want, rather than what people want me to do. I take piano lessons, play squash, do yoga every day. And I almost never feel guilty for lack of time for my little boy, wife, and friends.'
Granted, the guy is a gazillionaire with power, so it might not be as hard for him to be a lifestylist as for us average working schlepps. But if he's managed to free his employees from the charade of the usual corporate culture, then perhaps he's providing a model for everyone else to consider.

Kevin Salwen also waded into the same balance discussion with some well-written wisdom:
"You get the point: Our lives are not so much a teeter-totter as a river of work, family, friends, community, faith, whatever. And the streams that feed the river at any one time can be strong or weak depending on where the influences are coming from. And there's nothing at all wrong with that. Just don't box me into the balance metaphor; it doesn't work."


Rob said...

I have increasingly found the search for "balance" a holy grail that cannot be found.

Really though most work in offices is "make work" - meetings about meetings etc. The culture is all about process and not results. What Semmler did was to expose all o this as bunk and organize around results.

As a consultant I am not paid to be busy, or to turn up - I am paid to deliver. I can organize my time accordingly. I suspect that if we looked at how powerful control or the lack of it is and how we can shape organizations to provide control over task and result - most of the stress will go away.

Jeremy said...

Rob, thanks for sharing your experience. I think you're exactly right. So why is it so difficult for organizations to define what kinds of results they want from individuals, rather than simply defining meaningless process (you have to be sitting at your desk for 40 hours this week)?

Garth said...

The river metaphor works well for me not just because I'm whitewater paddler but due to the fact that i have learned well that finding that elusive balance on a teeter totter simply does not exist. Right now my river is in flood state and seemingly uncontrollable. All due to the fact the dams I thought I had in place have either been broken or were never there. Shame on me. I think we also get caught in a cycle of blaming work for our own doing.

I love what I do - I love teaching but the excessive hours I am putting in this particular module is not healthy for either me, my family, or my attitude towards my college. One of the roots of my problem is that I literally pour all I can into each class session I have. For me boring students is a sin...unfortunately my lack of sabbath-taking is a worse sin because it has greater consequences than boring a student.

Avi said...

Another take on the work-reward equation is provided by Fred Gratzon:
Lazy Way to Successand Richard Koch:
Living the 80/20 Way

Jeremy said...

Interesting links, Avi. Thanks for sharing.

The Lazy Way to Success made me chuckle. My brother and I were discussing laziness this week. We both have a well developed aversion to work, but neither of us is really lazy. We take our recreation too seriously, without a whiff of laziness. It seems to come down to a sense of choice and obligation. Work is a requirement, play is an option.

Jeremy said...

Garth, I thought this comment of yours was wise:

"I think we also get caught in a cycle of blaming work for our own doing."

That rings so true for me. When I get down, I start looking around for things to change...and because work isn't really optional, it makes the easiest scapegoat (and the hardest thing to change?)...