Working this weekend?

Earlier this week, I was discussing social media and crisis management with some friends.  In hindsight, some well-known situations blew up over a weekend, leaving companies to respond on Monday morning (e.g. Motrin, Tim Horton’s).

Many of us agreed that we are more deeply engaged with social media on weekends, being quite occupied with higher priority work during weekdays.  But as consumers expect to engage with brands around the clock, all week long, we may need to start rethinking how we work.  This is what social business requires.

It seems timely to rehash parts of a post I wrote last November, called “Working backwards to the future“:

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.

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. Today, social technology allows 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.

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.

I wondered earlier this week if you (and your employees) should be paid to participate in social media. You contributed great thinking in the comments. Today’s Saturday – are you working right now?

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  1. Hey Peter, yup I’m working today (and will be tomorrow).

    My excuse is that is my business, and that I use the weekends to ‘work’ in a different way. It’s my chance to catch-up with all the essential stuff that I don’t get time for during my hectic week. Reading all of my RSS subscriptions, writing the occasional blog post (even if I then schedule it to post during the following week), researching stuff and working on low priority internal projects that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

    I’m not sure you’d call it a life/work balance, but it is tolerable in the short term…

  2. I was talking to a colleague about this earlier. NYC is the worst for aggressively pushing nontraditional and extended work hours. Maybe marketing organizations will adopt a shift model to enable 24/7 coverage. My colleague reminded me that this began with the globalized model, but basically everyone just aligned with NYC hours. Now NYC may have to align to consumer hours. Wonder how New Yorkers will feel about this?

  3. “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.”

    Isn’t it interesting how before the industrial revolution people were self sufficient out of need only to become dependent upon systems set for them and in the process lost/gave up skill sets that had significant value in exchange for contributing to something larger than themselves or even their town (without really thinking about it that way)? And as Jackie implies with her question above…..what/where exactly is the work-other boundary? We’ve certainly been here before as a nation out on the frontier.

    Many people see a recession and feel that is why we are all working harder in order to compete more effectively both individually and on behalf of our companies. On the surface that is true but go a level higher and socially we are collectively asking questions about our values and if they serving us as intended? Social tools are magnifying this process and I believe we are intentionally reaching back in time for some things no one alive even remembers but feels through instinct. Businesses will all reflect this in time but social issues lead, business and brand issues reflect these moving averages by lagging the larger changes…by design.
    The most successful people I know these days aren’t that way because they have a great job. Instead, their “ranch” produces different things during the different seasons…by design. They still work long hours but the variety allows them a very different perspective.

  4. I run an interactive agency and am married with three children. Blurring the lines between work and “non-work” activities is the only way I can do all I want to do in life. Microslicing of days allows me to choose “and” instead of “or” when it comes to the things I want to do. Being always accessible is relaxing for me because I’m not wondering who needs me for what. And, my response times are much better than they would be if there were a chasm separating the distinctive parts of my life.

    If people would stop counting the days, hours, and minutes as “my time” and “work time” and start thinking in terms of what they want to accomplish in life (even if the goal is to contribute to 1,000,000 cars rolling off the assembly line), they would be happier.

    It may require a paradigm shift for some to recognize that you choose how to spend every moment of your life. You choose to work with this auto plant or ice cream parlor or ad agency. You choose to go to the park to play with your dog or to vacation in Cabo this weekend.

    Social tools allow for great transparency and it is well documented that people are “running their lives” from work. If people are allowed to “live while they work”, why would they expect to be given more compensation to “work while they live?”

    I say bring passion and pride to your job, remember that you choose your work just like you choose your life, and the blurring of work and life will be a natural outcome of the social technologies that make the mixing possible.

  5. I guess it all depends on how you define ‘work’ – However, you bring up a good point: should companies that create social media campaigns make themselves available during peak-network-usage hours? Personally, I think they should.

    I was at TAXI when the Motrin debacle happened, but I don’t think the ownness was on the ad agency to catch an anti-campaign that was being distributed via social networks. Ideally, either the brand manager, or PR company for Motrin would have caught it. But again, should they be working weekends? (considering how much more time users spend on social networks after work & on weekends, I think it’s irresponsible not to have someone monitoring things during that time. – Imagine not having telephone customer service representatives available after hours & on weekends.)

  6. To play devil’s advocate here – what happens as business currently operates in a transition? Will “old school” clients who see your non-work social activity publicized prefer to work with an agency who is more like them – i.e. minimal to no social exposure?

  7. “Always on” feels about right.

    Before social media, I knew what GMT was, where India fell on the globe, and thought I had “international” figured out. Then came Twitter and Skype and UTC and China and .. wow, there really is fascinating 24-hr world out there.

    In a global economy, somewhere in the world, people are hard at work creating or inventing something that we probably care about. In the context of an expanding knowledge economy, we may need to talk with them 1:1. Global interdependence has long been a factor in the financial markets. The internet just brought the impact closer to home, and Twitter, closer still.

    It helps to realize our 100-yr old industrial culture created not only cubicles, organizational silos, and model-T’s .. but also, the 40-hr work week.

    So I have to agree with Peter here, our business culture needs to give up a great many creature comforts if we’re to regain competitive edge.

    Maybe I’m biased. I get some of my best thinking done 2nd shift. Lately, it’s 3rd shift. Sleep? Optional. So many ideas, so little time.

    Great thought process, Peter, thanks for shaking us up a bit.

    Chris (@SourcePOV)
    Cary, NC

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