Another downturn in the economy, another rung falls off the career ladder. An interesting article over at the HBS blog argues that the current staffing cuts and furloughs that have been executed by multitudes of companies in this recession is taking us one big step further away from the antique concept of the 5 day, 40 hour work week.
But the idea of furloughs, particularly for managers and professionals, is planting the seed of a new way of looking at work in our minds. Suddenly companies have asked us to work, say, 32 hours a week rather than 40. Hmmm. What does that really mean? Most of us were never working 40 hours – we might have been working 50 or maybe even 60. We were answering emails at odd hours, writing in the early hours, calling Singapore at night. Does this mean that we should now work 20% less than we were before . . . or does it mean we should work literally 32 hours?
For many, I believe the conclusion will be that we should work the hours specified by the company and perhaps do other things – start new businesses on the side perhaps, sell stuff on eBay, take another job, go back to school, whatever – with the other time.
This shift sits well with many in Gen X who have already tended to bind their involvement more carefully than have the all-out Boomers. But for both generations, it will be a new way to look at work – another step on the slippery slope of recessionary lessons moving us from (1) you don’t have a job for life, to (2) you may never find full time work with one employer, to now (3) even a full-time job is really only a contractor job in disguise.