What if we could redesign our lives to maximize every one of the 168 hours of the week for our families, selves, and workplaces?
I thrive on solving complex problems, and overbearing constriction on how we live and work is what needs fixing now. Time is our most precious commodity and following others’ strict or random guidelines doesn’t work – at best. At worst, it adds stress and anxiety to adults, robs kids of time with parents or dinner at the table, and problems compound from there. The pandemic has certainly brought these concerns to the forefront, but they’ve always been there, just not to this level. So, let’s find the answer.
Some believe that the 4-day work week or the Swedish 35 hour/week model will solve our problems, but these solutions are only workarounds to an outdated model. We can shorten the work week but unless we can backfill business needs or adjust our medical and school system hours of operation, we are only continuously tweaking and creating workarounds to a system which is no longer relevant or desired.
I experienced the work life challenges when my daughter was small, and my husband had extensive medical treatments over a multi-year period. My days were difficult as I juggled childcare, work, and medical appointments. Everything was crammed into a 40-hour window. Consistently staying up late to finish client projects, I became exhausted and ultimately stepped away from the workforce.
As Jim’s health improved and our daughter grew older, I returned to a full-time job; however, I still found myself “boxed in” by primary constraints—medical maintenance and school hours. Like all moms, I took advantage of any flexible options I could find for managing the other parts of our lives. I was overjoyed to find a vet with 24/7 office hours without charging an “after hours fee”. I drive a certain type of car due to the dealership’s 24/7 service hours. If I could find cost-effective, high-performing services outside the normal work schedule, I used them, but those options were rare.
Advances in technology provide the potential to give us the economic results the nation needs and the flexibility we crave to balance work and life, but our design process is based on today’s regulations and the social norms around which we operate. We work during the week and use weekends to run errands, sports, go to church and relax.
In my book Turnaround, I lay out proven steps to solving complex problems. My premise is that if you are stuck in the assumptions and parameters as defined by today, you will only tweak the process without solving the underlying cause of the problems you face.
For now, let’s just start with step one, which is to visualize the future – don’t just fix what’s there, start from scratch. Let’s visualize a future which is built around performance and flexibility, and stop creating solutions that operate around the Monday through Friday 9-5 U.S. industrial model which was designed in the late 1800s and tweaked continuously through tax and regulatory structures throughout the last 150 years. It’s beyond time that we:
- Reimagine all aspects of our lives and identify the barriers to creating the highest performing, flexible models of work and life.
- Invest in standards-based options by designing economic hubs focused on productivity and flexibility.
- Relax or eliminate regulations, taxes, and zoning laws that reinforce a broken system and instead establish standards-based criteria for product innovation, job performance, health, and wellness optimization, and academic achievement.
- Prioritize medical solutions—therapies, testing, primary care, specialty care–which are easy for the customer to incorporate into their lives during times that work best for them.
- Ditch our 9-5 school system. Design community-based educational models which combine independent learning, mentoring, learning styles, and socialization. One benefit is that we may need to hire fewer teachers and pay educational professionals at higher rates.
- Invest in broadband and support hubs for underserved communities. Utilize technology and creative solutions that enable all families and children to access the best that education and medical care can provide.
We will never achieve a utopian society, but we should strive for what is equitable, flexible, productive, and livable. This is a starting point to begin a much-needed conversation. As we demand and deserve options, we can begin to re-imagine what future flexible communities could look like and benchmark our existing models against a new norm. As we build our path to the future, let’s modify our approach today enabling a future-forward design as new technologies and scientific innovations continue to emerge.
“In times of change, it’s learners who inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer
Written by Lisa Gable, former CEO, US Ambassador, UN Delegate, and author of Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Turnaround – How to Change Course When Things Are Going South
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