Jan Kubr

Do you check your work e-mail at home?

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2008 at 10:50

Having read the Freedom = Success article I pointed to, I continued with an NYT article about “falling-down professions.” I especially liked this part of it:

“Especially among young people, professional status is now inextricably linked to ideas of flexibility and creativity, concepts alien to seemingly everyone but art students even a generation ago.

‘There used to be this idea of having a separate work self and home self,’ he said. ‘Now they just want to be themselves.’ “

My dream has always been not to have the work and “real” lives too separated. I mean you spent one third of your life working, so does it make any sense to detach it from the other third you’re awake? It’s just weird, I am one person, not two. This is what Paul Graham has to say on this topic in his Why to Not Not Start a Startup:

“The thing that really sucks about having a regular job is the expectation that you’re supposed to be there at certain times.

(…)

In a startup, you skip all that. There’s no concept of office hours in most startups. Work and life just get mixed together. But the good thing about that is that no one minds if you have a life at work. In a startup you can do whatever you want most of the time. If you’re a founder, what you want to do most of the time is work. But you never have to pretend to.”

Yes, “Work and life just get mixed together,” that’s what I mean. But does everyone who wants to live like this start a startup? Everyone has families, relatives, friends, hobbies, aka “life.” Now why can’t you do something you love (or like, at least) and mix it with the other things you are passionate about? Why do you need to sit in the office every day from 9 to 5, then shut your computer down and never check your e-mail before the next shift (how awful) starts?

Let’s say it’s an early afternoon and there’s nothing major you need to do, but you’d like to take your girlfriend out. Now, watch the brave and oh-so-daring part: You do it! And then there might be an important e-mail you need to take care of that came in Saturday morning (let’s say from another timezone). So many people would wait till Monday morning to answer it. Which I don’t get, but I think it’s just the company culture. You force me to work certain hours, I won’t work outside of them. But you should just work when there’s work to be done, no? With some balance of course, but it doesn’t have to be that rigid, does it?

It seems like a no-brainer. Then why can’t most companies do what Best Buy was able to do?

‘Our whole notion of paid work was developed within an assembly line culture,’ Moen says. ‘Showing up was work. Best Buy is recognizing that sitting in a chair is no longer working.’

(…)

‘For years I had been focused on the wrong currency,’ says Thompson. ‘I was always looking to see if people were here. I should have been looking at what they were getting done.’

because today

It’s O.K. to take a nap on a Tuesday afternoon, grocery shop on Wednesday morning, or catch a movie on Thursday afternoon.

It is much easier to be flexible and have work freedom if you’re an independent contractor or work for yourself. In companies, this is apparently much harder than it seems. But it’s coming.

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  1. uh oh and again someone said it before I did (http://caliandjody.com/blog/2007/12/27/whats-a-day-off/):

    “For most, it’s socially unacceptable to answer work e-mails on a holiday. The guy who logs on for a half hour on Christmas is a jerk. What if by answering those e-mails he was able to not go in the next day and therefore get an entire extra day with his family? Is he still a jerk?

    What do we lose by all working (or not working) at the same time? What could we gain by having the freedom and the power to work when it’s best for us? And what’s a day off, really, when the world is non-stop?”

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