Nobody is productive for 8 hours straight and that goes double for creatives. No one can write great code consistently from 9 to 5, day-in-day-out.
It’s not folding boxes at an assembly line. It’s struggling, wrangling and backtracking. It’s hours of crazy productivity followed by hours of writer’s block.
That’s the nature of creative work.
It’s not the nature of corporate life, however.
Since Henry Ford divided our days into 3 equal parts, the 40-hour workweek has been the norm. We call that a “full-time job”.
The word itself reeks of maximization. A worker who’s finished an awesome job in 39 hours, still has to do some busywork to get paid for the week. Most companies in 2019 are too embarrassed to have physical punch cards. However, managers are still obsessed with the clock and collect completed timesheets like a trophy.
If developers really want to be productive, they need to organise their own time and space. Working where and when they feel best. It leads to happier and more productive creative workers. If that’s the case, then why do we still see 40 hours on-site treated as the norm?
Most companies are not organized by creatives. Instead of having a flexible system that supports them, they have a hierarchy optimized for easy reporting. Rigid work systems are hailed as the norm because they are designed by managers for managers.
Think about it this way: if you were allowed to create the ideal system, you would build the one that works best FOR YOU. That’s exactly what managers do.
The way your office works is not designed to support you in the best possible way. It’s engineered to track you better. Having the team in the office every day is the easiest way to follow up.
That’s why most managers hate part-time jobs. It’s why they oppose remote work. It might be more productive for the creative, but it makes their puzzle more difficult. How are you going to organize an all-hands meeting if not everybody is working in the same place and time?
A flexible workforce requires better leaders. A manager can get away with making it easy on herself in a rigid system. In a flexible system, the butts-in-seat-per-hour KPI doesn’t hold. It will have to be result-driven. That’s hard.
Companies are moving away from counting hours to result-driven organizations. Smart businesses will organize themselves to best support their workers. The workforce of the future will be highly flexible with distributed and part-time workers being the norm. Its management cannot remain stuck in 1926.
In a system that’s no longer optimized for easy reporting, the managing role will be more difficult.
This will demand a better kind of leader.