By CEO Constance A. Dunn
Imagine, you too could live the dream. You. A laptop. A view. A steady check for simply being.
Sounds compelling. So much so that over 3.4 million people handed in their two weeks in April of 2018 impelled by a strong economy and the promise of freedom. #YOLO, though off trend now, was the mantra of a generation of workers who watched their parents get laid off after decades of loyal work in one company in the early 2000s. The draw of AirBnB, Uber, the influencer craze proved too strong for some workers who preferred the risk over the reward of security - who answered the call of "freedom."
A post popped up in my feed today that grabbed my attention. An entrepreneur bragging about the amount of profit he is making by trimming waste and hiring freelancers. Let's put that into context - "waste" here equals commitment to people.
A post popped up in my feed today that grabbed my attention. An entrepreneur bragging about the amount of profit he is making by trimming waste and hiring freelancers. Let's put that into context - "waste" here equals commitment to people. Namely providing security to individuals you hire frequently and taking some responsibility for the quality of their work/life balance. Why would he have to offer those things when the comments were full of people offering their services simply based off his high profit margin? That's HE'S high profit margin, not their's.
Clearly, the idea of security is directly correlated in most people mind's with an uninspiring office with unforgiving schedules, outrageous expectations, and obnoxious policies. And if you don't want those things in your life and value spending time with your family your only recourse is freelance work. Which while allowing one to operate on their own schedule still requires hours of labor, hustle that is unpaid, and generally very little recourse when a client no longer needs or wants your services, not to mention few ways to build real wealth over the long term. Anyone who has tried to apply for a commercial property or home loan as a freelancer will tell you it's nigh impossible. So, okay maybe the guy buying my freelance work is not an altruist, but at least I don't have spend a day with him and the other material stuff. Whatever, I just want to enjoy life.
But, I've painted a picture that is too black and white. There are companies that offer more flexibility and freelance work can be very financially rewarding. I'm also running the risk of being called a hypocrite, after all our company hires freelancers. But I don't mean to say that hiring freelancers is a bad thing, in fact I think it can be fruitful for the freelancers and cost effective for the company in the short term. However, I propose we look at this relationship a different way. Decision makers who hire freelancers, consider each freelancer as a potential partner or future employee. That's our company policy. We meet our freelancers face-to-face. We want them to grow with us. Because when they do well and are happy, so do we. Very simple.
But wait, wouldn't that imply that freelancers are willing to give up the "free" in their lance? Not necessarily. For instance studies show that most people who work office jobs are only really productive for about three hours of every work day. So why do employers insist that they stay in the office for eight? Beats me. That employee could be working those three hours from home, hit all their deadlines and have time for the kids. Does that mean that the employee hasn't earned their full-time wages? No, if they are still meeting their deadlines, performing well, committed to doing extra work when needed, loyal to the company, and passionate about what they do, then they are worth their weight in gold whether they spend twelve hours or two hours at the office.
Next, let's talk about cost. The main reason business operators are attracted to freelancers is the amount of savings for high quality work. No on-boarding, training, benefits, taxes. Just a simple exchange of services for money. Honest. Trade. But think about the amount of money you'd save if you didn't need an office space? If you could delegate more to a person who specializes in the field and understands your goals? How much is your time worth and how much more could you grow? Imagine this person having a vested long-term interest in your success? How much is that worth?
This is what I propose. Three to four hour work days, if that. Scratch that - who cares how long the work day is? If a person understands the work and has a deadline then let them work for as much or little as it takes them to complete the task. That's the freelance way (which BTW you were willing to pay for) so why wouldn't you accept from an employee? Less hours should not mean less pay for a salaried position. If money is a physical manifestation of value and the person is providing value, then they are worth the money. A task may take more or less time depending on the person. Some people may like to work in the early morning when they are their sharpest. Others are night owls. Whatever, as long as they deliver, what difference does it make? I mean, how many c-suite leaders collect checks because their mere presence is valuable?
There are two types of businesses that I've been exposed to that seem to get the work/life balance thing. 1) Major tech companies, 2) Small to mid-sized family-run manufacturing. The latter is interesting. They are the types of companies that have carried the German economy. Not growth oriented, these companies are committed to their people. I've witnessed generations working alongside each other in small factories: grandfather passing the product down the line to father, then to son who only works three days a week (second shift) because school. Yes, in this case the hours are longer. But you are also doing something with your hands that directly contributes to the production of goods. The task is clear. The jobs often predictable. The owners of these businesses understand longevity and commitment. They take care of their people.
Why can't profitable office based companies take a cue? People matter. They matter as your client base, but they also matter as your team. Each freelancer is a potential team member, not a way to save money.