A four day week and full pay – now that’s work-life balance

I’m really pleased to present my recent TEDx talk on The four day week at full pay – now that’s work life balance

 

My thanks to the fantastic TEDx team at Macquarie University

Look out for more on the four day week soon.

Work flexibility can make you sick – Quelle suprise!

The Guardian as a great article on the problem with work flexibility used to create work-life balance.

 

The crux of the matter is that typical work flexibility practices used by organisations result in people never truly switching off.

These practices, like working from home, setting your own hours and mobile technology, result in a blending of work and home.

What’s needed is a clear separation.  Some down time.  That’s what a three day weekend is for.

Colouring in at work – What. A. Load. Of. Crap.

The SMH published an article on how businesses are using colouring in at work to alleviate stress and boost creativity.

 

This has to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard in a while.

 

Why not fix the workplace first?  Perhaps deal with the micro managers that drive us nuts?  Or the pointless meetings that take us away from getting our work done and make us stay back late at night to get it done?  Or the mind-numbing things we have to do that have no meaning or relevance?

 

There are far better things we can be doing with people’s time that have a more direct impact on the things that matter: imagining, questioning, thinking…

 

If you want more creativity and innovation, then get rid of all the crap.  Like colouring in.

A 30 hour work week – But why spread it over 5 days?

It looks like Sweden is moving to a 30 hour week through a six hour week day.

 

It’s a great idea.

 

But my only question is this:  Why spread it over five days?

 

Wouldn’t a four day week make more sense?  After all, who wouldn’t want a three day weekend, every weekend?

 

Sydney Morning Herald

Fortune

 

VW: Cheating ‘does not reflect our values’

Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America issued a statement that included the line: ‘The findings of this investigation do not reflect our values or who we are as a company, and we are devoted to setting things right’.

You can view Mr Horn’s statement here.

 

I would argue that they do, in fact, reflect their values.

 

The values and culture of an organisation represents how we do things around here, what matters, what we stand for.  And these are manifest in people’s behaviours.

 

For this to have been done would need to have involved lots of people from all parts and levels of the organisation.  For this many people to have contributed to it and for it to have been kept quiet for so long means that the culture of the organisation permits and even condones this way of thinking.

 

There’s often a big difference between the values written on the wall and those actually practised by management and the team. It’s like ‘Do as I say, not as I do’.  And so we need to look at the actual behaviours of people to tell what the values and culture are really like.  Not what they say it’s like.

 

For this to have happened, we need only to look at the real values and culture.  Because that’s what allowed it to happen.

 

Take a look around your organisation.  What are the stated values?  And what are the actual values?  Are they consistent?

 

Disclosure: I own an Audi, but not one that’s affected by the false emissions claims.

Unlimited leave – What would it take for it to be successful?

Richard Branson is getting a bit of press at the moment for introducing an unlimited leave policy, apparently having heard about something similar at Netflix.

More leave is something that’s having a bit of a groundswell at the moment as the balance between work and life has become uneven for many.  Whether it’s what you do, always-on gadgets or something else, people need more leave to get a bit of down-time.

Introducing a policy like this always has people worried.  Will people abuse it?  How do I keep some level of control?  What if everyone takes leave at the same time?  What if someone takes more leave than others?  What will the others think?  How do I keep a sense of fairness?  What if everyone takes leave all the time and I’m paying people to be on holidays?  How long will it take before I go broke?

 

These are all good questions.  But it’s not really any different to introducing a generous returns or customer satisfaction policy. In reality, only a very small percentage of people end up abusing it.  There’s nothing you can do about it.  There’s no point in making it hard for the majority who don’t abuse it by focussing on the very small number who do by having endless conditions.

 

So what do you do if you want to go down this path?  Before doing anything, there are some important findings on what people think about their work.   It turns out that many people don’t like their work, while others actively hate it.  It’s probably the case that if you introduce an unlimited leave policy that a lot of people will take a lot of leave.  Not because they want to abuse the system, but because they don’t like their work and don’t want to do it.

Before you do anything, take a look at what it is people are doing every day.  Is it purposeful and meaningful? Are they doing something that makes a clear and important contribution to the business’s goals?  Does it fulfil their own ambitions?  And what about their managers?  Do they grow and mentor their people?  Or micromanage them within an inch of their lives?  What’s the culture like?  Do you feel you have to watch everyone like a hawk because they’ll slack off?

It’s not just a matter of introducing such a policy and thinking it will all work out.  These fundamentals are important to get right, first.  Then comes how people self-manage their work.  If we’re asking them to self-manage their leave, are they already in a position to self-manage their work?  Do your people have clear goals and KPIs?  Do they have the authority to take action to correct things?  Is feedback on performance timely and accurate?  Are there shared KPIs that bind a specific team together, as well as binding different teams together along an organisation-wide process?

If you want to make the transition from measuring time as the determinant of people’s performance, such as time spent at work, time spent working on the weekend, then people’s performance needs to be measured in terms of value created.  Then people can manage their own leave based on a conscious – and conscience – decision about whether they’ve done their bit before they take time off as a reward.  They also need to think about how their absence will affect others in achieving their goals – and that’s where the shared KPIs come in.

 

There are lots of moving parts in your organisation to connect up before you embark on something like this.  Get those things right and you could end up with an amazing workplace.

After school care is an opportunity for schools

The SMH recently ran an article on how school principals can’t be made responsible for ensuring before school and after school care.

I wonder if this is actually an opportunity.  It seems to me that there is a clear demand for care as more and more families have both parents working.  The article talked about the lack of space, kitchen facilities and toilets.  I’m not convinced.

While a school may house hundreds of kids during the day there is sufficient space and toilet facilities, the number of kids requiring care is significantly less than this.  As for Kitchen facilities, most schools have a canteen and a basic staff kitchen.

The article also speaks about modifying facilities.  Given what I see at my own kids’ school, I’m not convinced by this either.

There is an opportunity for schools to provide care on a not-for-profit basis.  And I don’t mean ‘non-profit’.  A reasonable profit should be made, channeled back into the school for teachers and equipment, say 20% NPBT.

I’m sure there are plenty of teachers who both have a good reputation with the kids and would like to make some extra money to look after the kids until 6pm.

So, should school principals be responsible for before and after school care? Absolutely yes.  Working with the P&C there is a fantastic opportunity to generate revenue in an under-serviced area.  Parents want it.  They’ll pay.  Let’s do it.

What are we doing in all the time we spend at work?

Another article on the length of the working week, productivity, vacations and purpose.  The issue in the article is the length of the week (and day) and the importance of vacation time in boosting productivity.   I think it’s not getting to the root cause – we spend so much time doing crap work that just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme.  It’s a fundamental rethink of what work is really about that’s needed.  Managing the hours worked is simply moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.

6 hour workday, or a 4 day week / 3 day weekend?

Sweden is trialling a 6 hour work day.

Having recently enjoyed a greater balance of work / life time, I’ve far more enjoyed a four day week / three day weekend.  Having 1 – 2 hours extra each day might be useful, but I think a solid day where I can get more done (of my own things) is better.

Work can be quite intensive and we often need a fair bit of time to simply wind down before we can really focus on the other things we want to do.  A solid day in the middle to really get into a project or even two if you can wind down quickly and don’t need to wind back up on Sunday is far more satisfying because you can see real progress.

 

What do you think? Five shorter days, or a three day weekend?

A conceptual model for grammar: Verb conjugations and tenses

The problem with conjugations and tenses

In my recent efforts to re-learn and learn a bunch of languages, I’ve noticed several trends in the majority of grammar books I’ve leafed through both in book form and on the internet.  When learning romance languages, it’s critical to properly and fully understand the grammar as they apply to verb conjugations and tenses.  I’ll be using French as an example in this post.

In my use of these references the trends I’ve noticed are:

  • The terms used to describe the tenses are overly technical and are essentially unrelated to what they are describing.

For example, the ‘imperfect’ tense refers to the past tense.  I think it’s essentially meaningless to the casual learner to refer to it as the imperfect tense.  In fact, why is it imperfect?  Then there’s the perfect tense, also used to describe the past.

Another example is the subjunctive.  The what? I hear you ask.  Well, the subjunctive describes a conditional future.  That is, when expressing it, the speaker has some doubt over whether the future being described will be true or not.  For example, in the expression ‘It’s important that he be here…’ the speaker uncertain whether the person will, in fact, be here in the future.  It needs a special grammar and in French this would be ‘Il faut qu’il soit ici’, where ‘soit’ is the third person subjunctive of être.  We don’t use it very often in English any more.

Don’t get me started on the pluperfect. What is that??!!

 

  • In most grammar books I’ve seen, the grammar and specifically tenses are presented in an almost continuous stream of facts that must be rote learned.  The only concessions to the learner are a brief introduction and some examples.

 

  • The various tense tables are presented according to the technical name of the tense and then each conjugation is presented with no English equivalent.  In order to learn the tables, people essentially need to rote learn the whole lot.

 

  • Verb tables differ considerably in their completeness depending on the author.

 

I think there are two things missing in how the grammar is presented / taught.  The first is a conceptual model clearly showing the tenses in relation to a timeline.  And the second is to simply include the English (or other language) equivalent of a tense and conjugation.

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