Outside the [office] - Shawn Loughlin editorial
The future of work and what our world will look like 10, 25 and 50 years from now has always been a topic of chatter. Which jobs will survive, which ones will not and which ones will change have been hot topics for centuries as innovation has driven efficiency, erasing jobs and creating others.
The conversations happening now about the future of work are largely centred around automation, which is nothing new. What I’m thinking of in regards to the future of work, however, is the culture of the office.
This has been another talking point after two years of many businesses shifting to a work-from-home model. Some people have seen an increase in productivity and employee quality of life as a result, while others, like real-life James Bond movie villain Elon Musk, have criticized the work-from-home model.
However, one of the rainbows resulting from the rain of the COVID-19 pandemic has been many seeing the benefits of working from home. It may not be for everyone, but for some, it’s a good fit. This got me thinking back to an editorial topic Publisher Deb Sholdice pitched about the four-day work week.
A pilot program, led by 4 Day Work Week Global, kicked off in the U.S. and Canada on April 1 (perhaps allowing dinosaurs like Musk to question if it was an April Fool’s Joke) with almost 40 companies taking part. (A planned trial in the U.K. was set to begin on June 1, involving more than 50 companies.) Rather than cramming 40 hours (traditionally worked over five days in eight-hour intervals) into four days, the project asked employees to work 80 per cent of their traditional hours and maintain 100 per cent productivity for 100 per cent of their pay. This would encourage people to increase their efficiency and focus wholly on their tasks, eliminating unnecessary meetings and other traditional office dilly-dallying.
I don’t know if that approach is right or wrong, but it’s certainly interesting. We’ve all had days when we’ve dragged ourselves to the office - mostly before the pandemic - not quite sick enough for a sick day (if you’re lucky enough to even have paid sick days) but not quite healthy enough to give 100 per cent. Then there are other days in which you’re mentally distracted, perhaps due to things at home, or just otherwise not at your best.
For me, despite being in a deadline-driven environment, these days happen. I’ll look at this very column space and on some days I’ll fire out 600 words in a half-hour, while on others, I’ll stare at a blinking cursor for a half-day with no idea what to write. There are more of the former than the latter, at least for me, but in a creative field, those days happen.
I got thinking about this while listening to a podcast recently. The hosts told a story about the actor James Caan, who passed away last week, on the set of Misery, the film based on a Stephen King novel that won Kathy Bates an Oscar. Director Rob Reiner told Caan he’d have to reshoot some scenes from the previous day, citing a problem at the film lab. Caan later learned that it was a night of his drinking, subsequent hangover and resulting poor performance that led to the reshoots. He felt so bad about the lost day that he offered to pay for that day of production out of his salary.
Being in the office doesn’t necessarily equate giving 100 per cent 100 per cent of the time. Employers are slowly learning that and whether it’s a four-day work week or other ways to ensure employees can live full, happy lives while maintaining a successful career, for every step in the right direction, the better off the world (full of happy people) will be.