Tag: productivity (page 1 of 23)

Microcast #088 — Spontaneous fluctuations

Overview

In which I pick another three interesting items from my bookmarks to discuss.

Show notes


Image: Richard Horvath

Background music: Shimmers by Synth Soundscapes (aka Mentat)

Five-hour workdays

I’ve been saying for as long as anyone will listen to me that I can do a maximum of four hours high-quality knowledge work per day. Add on some time for emails and ‘sync’ meetings, and five seems about right.

The difficulty, of course, is the financial side of things. If you’re employed, will your employer pay you the same amount for working fewer hours? (even if productivity increases). And if you’re self-employed, will clients sign-off contracts that stipulate five-hour days?

The eight-hour working day is a relatively new concept, widely accepted to have been cemented by Ford Motor Company a century ago as a means of keeping production going 24 hours a day without putting undue demands on individual members of staff. Ford’s experiment led to an increase in overall productivity; but proponents of five-hour days, including Californian ecommerce business Tower Paddle Boards and German digital consultancy Rheingans, say they experienced a similar phenomenon when they moved to compressed-hour models.

Like Corcoran, Tower CEO Stephan Aarstol says he was startled by the results when the business adopted a five-hour working day in 2015. Staff worked from 8am to 1pm with no breaks and, because employees became so focused on maximising output in order to have the afternoons to themselves, turnover increased by 50 per cent.

Source: The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five | WIRED

What exactly is ‘hybrid work’?

‘Future’ is a new publication from the VC firm a16z. As such, most things there, while interesting, need to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

This article, for example, feels almost right, but as a gamer the ‘multiplayer’ analogy for work breaks down (for me at least) in several places. That being said, I’ve suggested for a while that our co-op meets around a campfire in Red Dead Redemption II instead of on Zoom…

Remote 1.0. The first wave of modern “remote-first” companies (including Automattic, Gitlab, and Zapier) leaned heavily on asynchronous communication via tools like Google Docs and Slack. This involved a fundamental culture shift that most enterprises could not — and didn’t want to — undertake. It didn’t help that video conferencing technology was clumsy and unreliable, making frictionless real-time communication unfeasible. When collaboration happened, it was primarily through screen sharing: low-fidelity, non-interactive, ineffective. Rather than paving the way, technology was in the way.

Remote 2.0, the phase we’re in, more closely approximates in-person work by relying on video conferencing that allows real-time collaboration (albeit still with friction); video calls are much better now, thanks to more consumer-friendly tools like Zoom and Google Meet. Millennials and Gen-Z-ers, who are more comfortable with multimedia (video and audio as well as multi-player gaming), are increasingly joining the workforce. But while this phase has been more functional from a technical standpoint, it has not been pleasant: “not being able to unplug” has become the top complaint among remote workers. (Especially since many teams have tried to replicate a sense of in-person presence by scheduling more video calls, leading to “Zoom fatigue”). As context diminishes, building trust has become harder — particularly for new employees.

Remote 3.0 is the phase ahead of us: hybrid work. The same challenges of Remote 2.0 are magnified here by asymmetry. The pandemic leveled the playing field at first by pushing everyone to remote work; now that it’s feasible to work in-person, though, hybrid work will create a “second-class citizen” problem. Remote employees may find it much harder to participate in core company functions, to be included in casual conversations, and to form relationships with their colleagues.

Source: Hybrid Anxiety and Hybrid Optimism: The Near Future of Work | Future