I admit it. Yes, I am one of that generation for whom ‘work’ has been, to a large extent, an exchange of time for money. Even now, my employment contract states a 32-hour week (a 4-day week) and so I turn up to offer Veldhoen + Company (give or take) 32 hours of my productivity. 48 weeks a year.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my work. I feel engaged and I have a strong work ethic that translates to feeling satisfied by the contribution I can make in those 32 hours. Work can be very creative and fulfilling and I give my all but, actually as long as I can support my life outside of work (mortgage, interests, travel, friends etc), I really don’t expect much more. A handshake made 30 years ago. Time for money.
On the other hand, my colleagues, most of them 20 years younger, seem to have an entirely different understanding of what work is and should be. They want the hours they devote to working to stand for something. They are meticulous in discerning what enables them to do their best work; what they want to do; who they want to serve and; how they will go about it. They want to be proud of and in their work. They want to be happy. The exchange isn’t between time and money but between effort and an experience.
At times, if I’m honest, this does create a rub. Removed as it is from my own conditioning, I can quickly dismiss their demand on work as an expression of brattish “entitlement”, an insatiable appetite for heightened experience. But, when I see beyond prejudice, I realise the exchange my workmates are in with work is heroic. Their relationship to work isn’t in a single dimension but with the whole, fast-changing, damaged, wonderful, world. My colleagues understand that not only can they have an impact, it is important they do so. And, I agree.
To my mind, it’s no longer tenable that work and worker be in a simple time/money exchange. Work is too complex and the world too demanding. Rather, work and worker are octopuses entwining their many arms to handshake on agreements with each other, with themselves; with leaders, employees, customers, bottom lines, opportunities, challenges; with office environments, environmental environments, old technology, new technology…with an even more complex future. These are changing constellations of exchanges, that never necessarily stay the same for long. And to deal with this, the workplace, and how people work, needs to be emotionally intelligent, personalised, agile and serving all employees by all means possible, so that their efforts are genuinely supported to be autonomous, empowered and purposeful. Effort in exchange for meaningful experience.
The EX of ABW
I recently found an infographic that IBM created to illustrate what Employee Experience is – 3 overlapping spheres. I could immediately recognise an alignment to the same 3-sphere model that we at Veldhoen + Company use to describe the interrelatedness of facets of work – and the power that is gained by fully integrating them, rather than keeping as discreet, unrelated things. Using a handful of this week’s 32 hours, I mapped our model to IBM’s EX one to see what it might bring. Although the combined infographic is woefully limited, for one, it doesn’t writhe and form hundreds of changing constellations with its octopus’ arms, it still confirms, to me at least, that the different facets of an Activity Based Workstyle connect and interconnect to produce a compelling employee experience that they can be proud in and I am proud of. Time well spent, I would say.