A new era of work, Part 1

In medieval times, some workplaces where quite dangerous, but certainly not boring… What is the situation today?! (Seen at Kaltenberger Medieval Festival, Bavaria)

As everybody I had my fair amount of quarrels with my parents, but one thing is for sure:

They certainly were not narrow-minded.

And I think for their time, they already lived a quite progressive live if I compare it with the really mouldy times then in the german 80s.

They found themselves jobs that were a bit more flexible than average, but in general German work-life in that time was really stiff, and times were even much more stiff for employees in the decades before, lets say the 70s or 60s.

People had to be at their workplace exactly 8:30 or what and were kicked out at 16:30. In my company there was even an alarm ringing until the mid nineties to call all the (white-collar) employees to leave. Then the offices were shut close.
Typically the husband worked and earned a good enough salary for the whole family and the wife stayed at home with the children.

There were exactly 25 days of holiday. One had to plan in January for the whole year in advance when to take them. Typically you had 3 weeks in August, one at Christmas and one in between. Holidays you spent in Bavaria in the Mountains or you took your family car on the Autobahn and drove it to the German dream country these days – to Italy.

At work there were no computers, no internet and no Blackberry. There was a fax machine and there was a coffee-room where people seemed to hang out the whole day if they needed a chat. And there was newspapers that the higher ranked were allowed to read at their desks in the morning.

There was a funny guy in every department that was totally useless but always had good gossip or some jokes available.

People had no chance to avoid work by surfing the internet but instead they had their telephones and each Friday morning there was a Weisswurst breakfast with your department, including one or two healthy white beers.

And the economy boomed!

Saturday morning you went shopping, at 12 o’clock the shops closed. Sunday you did nothing – like the Lord intended initially. 😉

Sounds good?

Well there were drawbacks:

Oh my god, hierarchies were strict indeed. A boss was a boss and not a team head or a managing colleague. There was no arguing if you were of different opinion. Women had few chances except for a secretary’s job. You had to do the same boring job for a lifetime. Changing ones job was considered defeat. One year passed like another. If you wanted to be different, you got problems quickly. You status was measured more or less purely by the job you had, the position there, and maybe the car you had. Even more than today, everything depended on your personal relationship.

So people waited for their retirement. And when it came people often did not really know what to do with their lives.

Now what is the situation today?

Well, hell of a lot changed obviously.

Not everything to the better:

Pressure on your workplace is higher. Flexibility is expected and sometimes 24/7 availability. Automatic salary increases slowed down considerably.
The Weisswurst Frühstück and Beers on Friday morning are gone. What a pity!

But then there are advantages as well:

For god’s sake we got rid of a lot of the depressing hierarchical thinking of the old days! Today (if you are lucky), you can have an honest discussion with your boss, you can be of different opinion, you can even have fun together.
Empowerment of individuals grew considerably.
Thanks to the internet, much more information is available to everyone. Quite often, you know more about some topics or processes in your company than any of the bosses above you, that means your independence grew.
You can just swap jobs if you want a change, even change careers, and an increasing number of people find that totally normal.
And modern technology makes you much more independent in what way, where and when you do your job!

And, slowly, slowly, the idea of downshifting creeps into the company world as well…

More and more people understand that if we are going to work until we are 70 (like it looks these days in Germany), and if pressure and high tension at modern workplaces persist, then you need time to regenerate.

You can no more just do your regulated work until retirement and wait to enjoy your life then.

You have to find a way to enjoy living here and now.

Let have a look what possibilities modern technology brings us.
Let’s start with one of the great new inventions of modern workplace (we’ll look at other great inventions in later posts):

Part 1: Home office

Great thing, I can really recommend that as I do it myself two days a week since some time.

My work satisfaction increased considerably and the value added for my company stays at least the same.
And – when speaking about saving – home office is quite economic as well!

Let’s calculate a bit:

Time saving for Woodpecker Cost saving for Woodpecker Savings for the company
1 hour commuting p. day, i.e.80 hrs p.a. 40km drive p.day, i.e. 3200km p.a., i.e. car costs saved:800 EUR p.a. Subsidized Lunch at the canteen
0.25 hours changing to suit p.day (Yeah, I can stay in jeans the whole day!), i.e.20 hrs p.a. Less suits depreciation (these damn thin trousers are finished so quickly) and dry cleaning, lets say 100 EUR less for depreciation and 60 EUR less for cleaning160 EUR p.a. Office space (desk can be shared with others)Parking space (same)
Reduced idle times when bringing kids to childcare (had to adjust this to avoid rush hour before), 0.5 h p.day or40 hrs p.a. Company compensates some bucks for electricity and heating, lets say +-0 EUR. A lot of time otherwise spend for gossiping with colleagues
Can do minor works during lunch-break, which is a minimum of 45mins and in the company you spend most of it chatting after you finished eating.20mins p. day,  or:26 hrs p.a. Company pays my internet and phone flat rate, even if I use it privately as well.30 EUR p.month, i.e.360 EUR p.a. More efficient work as I am interrupted less often.
Sold second car, as Mrs. Woodpecker can do her rides now on my home office days:Insurance+Tax+Depreciation(if any for the bloody old junker)600 EUR p.a.

Total 166 hrs. p.a.

Total 1920 EUR p.a.

Quite a lot given office space costs

(+Benefits for the society: Fewer cars on the already packed streets, less oil consumption, more healthy food and better family life, less office buildings needed, more relaxed people due to less time spent commuting and in traffic jams.)

On Woodpeckers side that’s +166 hrs or 7 days per year more time and 1920 EUR saved per year! That is already a decent holiday for the family again!

Plus I can read documents in my armchair, the air is better, I can control the temperature and I don’t have to share my bathroom ;).
My company saves office costs, my burn-out probability decreased and I do more concentrated work at home than in the busy office.

So home office really is a triple win situation, for both you, the company and the society as well.

Now the question is: Can you do it as well?!

I’d say yes, at least you should try.

Take courage, just ask and try build your boss a bridge to say “yes”!

My boss is a nice guy but he was not so convinced at first. But then he had a bad conscience because he was quite happy with my work but couldn’t give me a rise, so we agreed that we give the home-office a try and I offered that he can cancel it anytime if he is not satisfied.Well, he is still happy and already admitted that my performance stayed as good as before, so let’s see in the future if a third day per week is possible as well ;).

Join me, and in 10 years from now traffic jams at rush hours will also be relict of the past! And in 15 years – who knows – maybe you get your task and you will be  paid to finish it, no matter where or when or how quick.




3 comments on “A new era of work, Part 1

  1. […] to home office and repeating sabbaticals, that’s definitely next on the agenda for […]

  2. […] we would still need someone to care for the kids in the afternoon. Maybe two days of home office – like you are doing – would […]

  3. […] My first home-office day. Birds chirping outside, a great home-made meal on the terrace instead of eating in the canteen. Having my own toilet . Cost: 0 EUR, actually commuting costs saved. (LINK) […]

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