Written by:

Holly Macdonald


June 4, 2009

What is work?  Why are organizations reluctant to broaden their definition of work and how it gets done?  In today’s technology-laced work environments, there are many ways where employees can work and contribute, but it seems like organizations aren’t ready to redefine work and rely heavily on the notion of “face time”.  There are so many ways that people could work, but full-time permanent seems to continue to be the model that organizations strive towards.  And, that model is held out as the “gold standard” for so many.   

We see organizations trying to create “engagement” programs to keep employees happy, ongoing pursuit of the elusive “work-life balance”, cycles of layoff, then (re) hiring and talent management strategies.  Maybe it is time for some out-of-the-box thinking.  If organizations are working so hard to find/keep employees, but workers are struggling to find ways to work less, it seems kind of obvious that there is a disconnect.  There’s a reason that “The Four Hour Work Week” is the most popular book out there right now!  I, for one, enjoy the work that I do, and am not desperate to retire (although it’s probably because I escaped the city and moved to an island paradise), and would like to work for a long time to come. 

Part-time, contract, piece-work, job sharing, compressed work weeks, telecommuting, retainers, employment co-ops, and on and on.  There must be lots of ways to define/construct work.  Perhaps organizations can see what’s in it for the employee, but aren’t sure what’s in it for them?

  • Influx of new ideas from different perspectives
  • Diversity of employees
  • Fewer costs for health benefits (often hundreds of dollars each month per employee)
  • Possible reduction of facilities costs – if organizations are open to telecommuting/virtual workers
  • Providing employment options to more people – might be good for society
  • Increased flexibility in compensation – people could do piecework and get paid for it.
  • Etc.

Sure there’s challenges, but it’s worth exploring don’t you think?