The future of work

Our DPSN theme for August is “future”.  We asked our bloggers to share their thoughts when they reflect on the future – either near or far.  We want to know how they imagine their future, the future of New Zealand, the world, or humanity as a whole!  We’d like to hear your views too, so let us know in the comments below, or jump over to our Facebook page to join the conversation.

As someone who works a regular 8.30am to 5.00pm job (plus extra…), I read with interest about a New Zealand trust management company, Perpetual Guardian, and their trial of a four day working week.  That’s working a 32 hour week, for the same salary as a full time employee.

Rather than getting less done, the company noticed a 20% increase in productivity.  They are now looking at implementing the four day work week permanently. In addition, staff appeared more engaged and enthusiastic, reporting benefits across the board in terms of work-life balance – particularly for parents, who were able to spend more time getting everything done that they need to for their children through the week.

Something else of interest in the news lately is that more and more workplaces are starting to offer unlimited annual leave.  One of the fears of implementing something like unlimited leave is that it can have the opposite to intended effect – staff feel pressured not to take as much leave as they’ll appear to not be working as hard and keeping up with their colleagues.

One Australian consulting firm combats this by expecting staff to take their usual four week entitlement at a minimum, and by having management staff role model by taking plenty of leave themselves.  Interestingly, what they have found is that while staff now take an average of five and a half weeks annual leave a year, sick leave has halved.

It makes sense of course – stress has a direct impact on our immune systems.  If you have enough time to stay refreshed and recharged, particularly when you get run down, you’re far less likely to get sick.

To me, both of these strategies make so much sense.  How many people spend hours with their bum technically “on seat” at work, but not engaged in productive activity?  Rather than being paid by the hours spent in a building, isn’t it more logical to be paid by the tasks completed?  After all, so long as you’re getting your work done, couldn’t you reward people for efficiency by letting them leave when they’ve completed everything they need to for the week?

And as someone who has had a bit of a rough year health-wise, and managed to use up my sick leave in the blink of an eye for surgery, unlimited leave sounds ideal.  The compounded stress of having had surgery, using up sick leave, and ongoing medical complications, ironically made me more prone to colds and flu’s this year than I would have been otherwise.

Whereas if I’d known that I could take more down time to recover fully, paradoxically I think I would have needed less leave overall.

I think we’re stuck in old ways of thinking when it comes to how we work.  Technology is changing rapidly, and our lifestyles along with it. Working remotely is easier than ever and conversely some jobs are more stressful due to the way they can leach over into our lives.  The future of work is about flexibility, and systems that make sense – it’s nice to see things finally start to catch up.

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