A post over here got me thinking about workweeks, workdays and the artificial constraints that an employment situations thrusts upon us.

Ricardo Semler wrote a couple of interesting books about these issues and more – discussing how to empower employees, make them take ownership of a product/project/process, give them the ability to construct their own work/life balance etc.

It seems that New Zealand prescriptive labour laws are in fact an impediment to finding this balance. As an example I would site the holidays act – the fact is some people love their work and don’t want to go on holiday – they’d be keen to swap their holiday entitlement for cash – but our regulations prohibit this.

Similarly the need for prescription that the Employment Relations Act requires makes it difficult to have real flexibility in a work relationship.

As NZ moves to our required position of a value adding, high skill economy, these issues are going to become even more important. Part of this change is moving people up the Hierarchy of Needs, as they get towards self-actualisation, dollars earned and a gold watch after 25 years is less important than ownership, a sense of fulfillment and the feeling that one has been part of a real change making process.

Semler’s solution is autonomy, micro business contracting to the main enterprise, communal decision making powers and 360 degree assessment. This is all great but I wonder if it’s really plausible given our fundamentals.

Thoughts anyone?

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

1 Comment
  • I’m with Ricardo on this one. An employer should be free to offer work under any conditions that meet local laws. As consumers we can choose to purchase goods and services from companies that share our values.

    Welfare systems and barriers to labour mobility cause problems in this area so this has resulted in regulations like the minimum wage and other conditions. I’m supportive of a minimum wage of the grounds that people should be paid a decent wage full stop. But it can and does cause distortions in the market.

    I am in favour of a universal basic income which would free up businesses to run as they wished since they would have to attract staff to work there. Its when people have little choice that they accept work with poor pay and conditions.

    I have always run businesses openly being as flexible with staff as possible. The only requirement is that they do the job. Hours, holidays even wages are all flexible within that parameter. If you employ people who share your purpose and values this will work really well.

    Let people fly and they will produce great things for you. Treat them as slaves and they will not.

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