Separation of Work and Play Dehumanizes Us
Day 8 of 21 days with Chuck’s new book, Why Employees Are ALWAYS a Bad Idea
The following is a short blog post a few years ago by a young guy in his 20s heading into work. It was riveting and was partially responsible for setting me on the path to writing “Why Employees Are ALWAYS a Bad Idea”. I never saw it again, but it made such an impact I can almost recite it from memory:
“Every day I go to work.
When I get to work, I park, leave myself in the car, and head into work.
At lunch I always try to come back out and reunite with myself for a few minutes before I have to leave myself in the car, and go back into work.
I do this everyday.
And in the evenings I always hope I get off in time to reunite with myself…before I’m gone.”
This wasn’t a kid writing in 1895 about his experience in the steel mill, but someone writing in the 21st century about their experience working in the front office in modern corporate America.
In 2013, Zappos moved to downtown Las Vegas. Tony Hsieh’s reason, “I want to be in an area where everyone feels like they can hang out all the time and where there’s not a huge distinction between working and playing.”
For thousands of years we worked where we lived, and lived where we worked. But in the late 1800s, Frederick Taylor and the Industrialists decided that didn’t make sense. Taylor and the Industrialists worked very hard to separate the two, saying it was “ordinary common sense”. He may have thought so, but it’s not normal, it’s not human, and it doesn’t help productivity in the Participation Age. Separating work and play is another business disease instituted during the Industrial Age as a cure that ended up being the disease itself.
Top Motivators – Making Meaning
Three things motivate people more than money in the Participation Age.
1) Flexible work schedule – let me decide when I work.
2) Praise and Recognition – catching people doing something right.
3) Breaking up the work day – research shows productivity goes up if we take a break in the middle of the day and do something unrelated to work – take a walk, ride a bike, go for a swim, visit an aquarium.
In the Participation Age, Stakeholders expect to integrate work and play, just like we did before the Factory System.
The Old (and Returning) Normal
For thousands of years people lived where they worked (over the storefront or on the farm) and played where they worked. Community was built around work and small markets. The kids ran and played, learned and worked, the grandparents helped out – everyone was involved. When work was slow, people played more and when it picked up at harvest time, or in the mornings when the cow needed milking, they put their hand to it. Barn raisings, quilting bees and even harvest time brought everyone in the community together as families to work, play, and socialize.
There wasn’t much separation of work and play in the process. It was considered natural to blend the two.
Our Past is Our Future
In the Participation Age the work world is once again full of options, making the time/money trade-off a lot less clear, and universally unattractive. Savvy employers are dropping their commitment to a Time-Based Industrial Age culture, and replacing it with a Results-Based culture that values PRODUCTION over PRESENCE.
In the Industrial Age, the employer held all the cards and said, “If you give me your best time, I will give you some money.” Today’s Participation Age companies understand that if they give their Stakeholders time, the Stakeholders will make them some money. Time is the new money.
It’s a New Work World
The Center for Talent Innovation (CTI cites reports that an overwhelming 90% of people want flexible work arrangements. CTI also says, “Companies that treat time as currency — through remote work options, staggered hours, and reduced-hour arrangements — are also more likely to attract and retain high-caliber employees.”
Mayur Singh, a vice-president, one of the largest banks in the world, HSBC, spends six months of the year working at an eco-conservation project, and six months in the HSBC office working. HSBC allows any employee to participate like Mayur Singh. The result? Productivity has shot up in 88% of the participants, and has not declined at all in those who have decided not to participate.
Patagonia, a manufacturer of athletic clothing, encourages its 1,300 Stakeholders to take off during any work day to ride a bike or go surfing. It also gives them two full weeks of paid leave if they will use it to serve a nonprofit of their choosing.
Point B, a Portland based management consulting company with over 400 Stakeholders, offers NO vacation time. They simply pay for time worked. One Stakeholder gushed, “I’ve never worked anywhere that was as committed to helping employees realize what the work-life balance means to them individually.”
Semco, a large Brazilian-based manufacturing company allows you to reduce your work hours for a few months or even longer so you can spend more time with kids or pursue some activity you love.
Citrix reports flexible workplaces save tens of thousands of dollars per employee each year, Stakeholders are 55% more engaged, and productivity increases on average 27%.
It’s Not Optional
People reading this through Industrialist’s eyes are going to say they just won’t play in the new sand box and don’t need to; that there will be plenty of stupid and lazy people left over with which to squeeze the last dime out of the existing matrix. They are wrong.
The work-world is changing and the workforce is shrinking worldwide. In the Age of Participation, Stakeholders will decide for themselves which organizations are desirable and which are not, and will use such measurements as culture, employer reputation, and the company’s willingness to engage in Making Meaning, to make that choice. We are beginning to see a dramatic shift in the employer/employee relationship. In the Industrial Age, the Factory System Industrialist held all the cards. In the Participation Age, the shoe is on the other foot. As a Pricewaterhouse Coopers study says, “the employee will call the shots in tomorrow’s world.”
The Industrial Age practice of trading time for money has been exposed as a disease, not a cure. In the Participation Age, time is the new money. Companies that figure out how to compensate Stakeholders as much with time as with money will do well going forward. The Industrialists will cling to the status quo, and future books will report seeing them last as they were rearranging the deck chairs around their factories on the way down.
Time is the new money.
This is a summary of a chapter from Chuck’s new book, “Why Employees Are ALWAYS a Bad Idea (And Other Business Diseases of the Industrial Age)”. Click here to pre-order this new ground breaking book at a discount on IndieGoGo.com until July 28.