Simple question that involves you reading this article, "Be Prepared as Digital Natives Demand the 4 Hour Work Week Lifestyle"
Will government ever get there...or even a sliver of "there?
IMO not in this century!
Fear of power loss!
I think all organizations will get there sooner or later. The question is when and how far will they go. This is a massive cultural disruption to both government and commercial sectors.
I'll have to disagree with Henry. Even though the "Results Only Work Environment" (ROWE) experiment at OPM did not work, it has worked in other organizations and has a lot of potential. It goes way beyond traditional telework or flexible work schedules that only provide limited flexibility. Mobile technology will help to ensure that we can work anywhere, anytime, and use modern apps to get the government's work done more efficiently and effectively. Focusing on results will help to increase employee engagement, thus reducing the requirement to have so many (mostly disengaged) employees.
There's so much oversight on labor in the gov't (and gov't contractors) that makes this so very hard. I've worked in both of those environments, and logging your hours, working on site being paid for is SO much part of the current structure I have a hard time hoping for better. That being said, I think a good evaluator could make a strong argument that tracking that people are 'working' in the office for the hours they log is NOT a good way to prove that salary dollars are being spent wisely. I'd love to see the policies shift a lot towards results oriented success, rather than time spent measured success. ONLY if that shifts can the gov't workplace become more place/time flexible. Only when we stop counting the hours and start counting the outputs and outcomes will that be even possible.
I think if we refer to it as the 'four hour work-week' - no. There's a bit of a PR issue there in the fact that defining a work-week by any set number of hours spells big trouble, especially in government, where issues of accountability and taxpayer expense come into play. If the argument is sold as a 'flexible, results-oriented work environment,' I do think government will continue to evolve, with increasing options for telework, part-time work and an increased focus on performance versus 'time-in-desk.' Here's hoping!
There's a lot of good points here by everyone. I agree that if it's called a 4-hour work week, then no...it'll likely never happen. Instead, allowing for flexibility of working (regardless of whether it's at 6am in the morning or starting at 10am, or even doing a nightshift for certain things, will eventually happen. It is a huge culture shift from managing by having a butt in the seat vs. "let me see what you've accomplished".
Currently I'm working 3 days/week from home (regularly schedule telework) and it's been fantastic...but I'm sure it's not been an easy transition for others that are used to having me in the office each day. Although I'm still accessible via IM, FaceTime, Skype, Hangout, email, phone, etc. I think I'm MORE connected now than I was while in the office.
I definitely think a shift in how we work and where we work is happening, and will continue to happen. Just how close it gets to a "4-hour work week" is yet to be seen. But it will probably be years before the government workforce, as a whole, moves in the office-less direction.
While I agree that many non-industrial jobs can get away from the 20th-century economy-of-scale, efficiency-study, regimented workday idea, I also think that having workers report to their hive fulfills some social needs that we have. Even if I don't have to go into the office every day, it's nice to know that I can go there. Video conferencing just doesn't always cut it.
I think the 21st century workforce will thrive on options; if you work better in your tower, cut off from direct human contact, that can be ok. If you work better between the hours of 5am and 2pm, do that. And if you work better in the hive than outside it, you get a little cell to call your own.
Moving away from the one-size-fits-all mentality will be difficult, because having flexibility increases costs, and we are all trained to focus on minimizing costs. But the cost to our humanity has not entered into the equation until recently.
I'm glad you mentioned the social costs to this kind of work, because that's what worries me the most. What would happen to the collegial office feel, the lunches with coworkers, the spontaneous days when a coworker brings in cookies, the happy hours, or when the office surprises an employee with a birthday party? What about the little conversations across the cubicles that make the day more interesting? Wouldn't we miss that?
Well, I know not every office is like this. Lots of times people are in and out anyway - I rarely see my supervisor or about 2/3 of my team unless we have a meeting on the calendar. We certainly don't have a lot of impromptu lunches or happy hours (though we do plan them and most people come together for those). As for the conversations, we do most of our laughs through IM anyway it seems. I guess it seems strange to some people, but I'm just more happy doing my conference calls and spreadsheeting from my location of choice rather than commuting to my cube for no extra value creation.
This discussion ties in nicely with a blog post about introversion yesterday. We are recognizing that one size does not fit all, and that different people may need different work environments. As long as communication lines are open and work is getting done, everything is ok.
Office happy hours. The cookies. The surprise office birthday parties. The memories... <shudder>
How much we value these memories depends on "the office" and the leadership.
I remember "office" events fondly from when I was a uniform wearing member of the military. I try to forget the office events I experienced as a suit and tie wearing civil servant.
The military office was about fun and friendships, mission and mortality. It made me want to raise a glass with friends and toast our bonds. High rank civilian office was about fake smiles, political agendas, ring kissing, and stuffy conversations. It made me want to raise a glass to forget where I was.