Tuesday, 24 November 2015


What happened in Paris has put a lot of things into a sharper perspective like work/life balance.  It’s a subject on a lot of agendas right now. The debate includes Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, insisting her workforce comes to the office rather than working from home and Lucy Kellaway, the sparking FT writer, advocating the return to the 9-5 working week as a way of increasing productivity, innovation and morale.

In the Harvard Business Review researchers discovered the tipping point of competence was a 56 hour week. After that they remarked darkly not only was the work done no good, it almost certainly had to be redone or reversed. Or worse; it created problems that doing nothing at all would have avoided.

According to the Times on Saturday the number of men working part time is now topping    1 million, up three times since 1992. Quite successful and greasy-pole-climbing men are abandoning their hundreds of thousands of pounds, the Michelin stars and the 70 hour weeks for occasional consultancy, school runs, helping with homework and DIY. Work has for some become a paid hobby. The other side of this equation is that wives can get to work too and fulfil their own ambitions.

Indeed working for yourself as opposed to a big corporate allows you to work when you feel like it. Lunches, shopping when it’s less crowded, reading a book or going to an art gallery begin to be part of a broader education programme rather than being seen as goofing off. Maybe what justifies all this is the brain doesn’t stop thinking when our body isn’t stuck behind an office desk.

But there is a cost and Lucy Kellaway is eloquent on observing that having a real job in a real office allows you to build a much more interesting time between nine and five than working on the kitchen table can ever do.

In the end it comes down to this. Is what you do worthwhile, interesting and inspiring? The best advice on this comes from Netflix that extraordinary, newish company with a market capitalisation of over $40 billion. Only ever hire and work with stunning people they say.

Is this foolishly idealistic? Perhaps but the best memories I have ever had of work has involved brushing up against and interacting with great talent.

Because the conversation about how hard we work is the wrong one; it should be about how good the work we do is.

Quality not quantity always wins.

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