“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”
It’s only natural that you see me citing Lao Tzu yet again. The man must have written the wisest words about life and existence so many centuries ago. Words that are as relevant and needed as they probably were when he wrote them.
Somewhere along the line, probably after the Industrial Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, most of the world’s population has turned into a working machine at the service of governments and capitalism. Working in horrible conditions, ten to sixteen hours for 6 days a week, until the implementation of the 8-hour workday by reformist Robert Owen in late 1926.
While we have evolved as a society, being able to cover our basic needs like housing, food or health, there are still many many people living in inhuman conditions everywhere across the world. We haven’t been able to keep up with the changes that the Digital Revolution has brought.
The result? It’s 2020 and most people are still working under terms and beliefs from 1900.
The First Reform
By cutting the workday and doubling pay, Owen understood that he could increase workers productivity and double his profit margins within 2 years. What if we did today what Owen did back then, and what many companies already do? Isn’t the high number of mental illnesses, burnouts and general unhealthy standards most workers fall into showing us that a change is needed?
It is evident that this model doesn’t fit with modern lifestyles and working practices anymore. Most work can be done from home, or anywhere, women aren’t exclusively dedicated to taking care of their home and family, which means housework is shared. In today’s mostly sedentary work, with a high dependance on computers and screens, it’s very easy to get your eyes fatigues and your body worn out.
Numerous studies show that job stress in the US is easily the major source of stress in adults’ lives. Working long hours has been shown to cause fatigue, stress and increase mistakes and accidents. Ironically, working more hours reduces productivity.
It has been consistently proven that the best pattern for working is “working only when you are most effective”. Besides the increase on productivity, it makes everyone’s lives more enjoyable.
So, the ideal work model that makes sense for our time is a balance between individual flexibility and team collaboration with a strong energy management. Respecting everyone’s time includes removing pointless, unnecessary meetings that can easily be e-mails through structured, scheduled chats that improve communication.
I’m extremely lucky to work for Automattic, a distributed company that respects my time and energy, and truly cares about how I’m doing, not only as a worker, but as a person. Besides loving the work I do, I thoroughly enjoy working in a company where I feel needed and cared for.
The world needs many reforms, in many different fields but one thing is for sure: the 9 to 5 model is obsolete and after the Coronavirus pandemic… it’s about to get rethought.