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What’s your work week?

Jul - 7 - 2008
Nicole C. Engard

I’m big on flexible work schedules and have always made that clear to my employers. That said, my request for flexibility is nothing compared to what Tammy Erickson suggests in her article entitled Do We Need Weekends?

The idea of a defined work week makes great sense if you’re performing synchronous tasks – activities in which everyone has to be there all together to get the work done. Clearly in an industrial economy, the idea that everyone needs to be there pretty much at the same time is key. You can’t run an assembly line if the guy responsible for tightening the bolts has decided to skip Friday and come in all alone on Saturday.

But how much of our work today, really, is synchronous?

Less and less. Yes, there certainly are a number of customer-facing roles for which you clearly have to be available when the customers are there. But an increasing proportion of the economy is comprised of work that is individually paced. We may confer with colleagues to get input, but for more and more of us, a colleague’s decision to take the day off will have little direct affect on our immediate productivity.

There is of course one big synchronous activity in which most of us invest a fair amount of time – meetings. Secretly, I suspect many meetings are held largely because we are all in there – what else did we all drive in for? It feels silly just to peer at each other over our cubicles – probably we better get together. It seems like the right thing to do. But is a synchronous meeting really essential to the work at hand?

This last paragraph made my laugh! I work in a virtual office now and our meetings are impromptu and productive – nothing like those I’m used to when in an office setting where we sit around debating sometimes silly points!

Meetings aside, this is an interesting article about the changing nature of the traditional work week.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Lori Reed says:

    Best Buy corporate staff do not have to put in 40 hour weeks. They work as many hours as it takes to get the job done. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. I’d be all for that! There is nothing more aggravating than putting in a 60 hour week then the next week having to take 2 hours of sick leave for a doctor appt.

    It will be interesting to see how the gas prices will effect our work weeks. Utah is mandating a 4 day work week for govt employees and we are looking at the same. Maybe the gas prices will have the unanticipated but positive effect of creating more flexibility for organizations that previously were not very flexible.

  2. Nicole says:

    Lori, I have heard about companies changing hours because of gas prices! I also have a friend at Motley Fool and they do the same thing that Best Buy does.


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