Working backwards to the future

Have you noticed the increased amount of work being done over the weekends?

Over the weekend of 13-14 September, banking executives met at the NY Fed to discuss a Lehman rescue.  Shortly thereafter, Congress met over the weekend to discuss a larger $700 billion bailout package.  Granted, these actions are in response to a crisis situation and the weekend work is warranted and bit different than, say, raking the leaves off of your lawn.

Over the past couple of weekends, business has been occupying social media, too.  Motrin ran into controversy on a Sunday.  The next Sunday, Scott Monty from Ford was trying to drum up support for the auto industry.  And Frank Eliason aka ComcastCares on Twitter seems to be helping out all the time.

In the U.S., most workers have been employed for the past 80 years under a mental model of working five days a week, eight hours a day.  Working outside of those limits tends to create dissonance with the concept of work-life balance.  Most white-collar workers regularly put in more time, but use the old standard to gauge how much extra effort they're contributing.

I shared my thoughts on work with Dan Schwabel recently and believe it's most important for us to be "consciously engaged" with our work, regardless of model.  Social technologies allow us to always be on and toggle quickly between work and personal activities.  We don't work in big chunks of 5 vs. 2 days or within a block between 8 am and 5 pm anymore – we work and live our lives in much more finely sliced segments. 

Interestingly enough, it was Henry Ford who first implemented the five-day work week in 1922, so that workers could not only recover from work, but also have time to purchase goods.  Now, it appears that Ford has another opportunity to transform the world of work by trying to save itself in the process.

Social technologies and today's "always on" culture will certainly need to be factored into the transformation of U.S. automakers – and will eventually impact the way all industries function.  I wonder if this means we'll return to six- and seven-day work weeks…if we're not there already.  I imagine more telecommuting, microslicing of days, greater use of social technologies for business.  These seem to be the hallmarks of the "information revolution" to follow the industrial revolution.

Strangely enough, the cadence of our work seems to resemble life before the industrial revolution, albeit with a much higher standard of living.  And I'm not sure if things are getting better or worse.