The Two Hour Workday

This weekend I read an article about Gen Z in the workplace with a funny title: The 37-Year-Olds Are Afraid of the 23-Year-Olds Who Work for Them. There was a choice quote that stood out to me:

Mr. Kennedy [a millennial] interviewed a Gen Z candidate for a full-time position who asked if she could stop working for the day once she’d accomplished the tasks she’d set out to do. He responded that her role was expected to be a nine-to-five.

CEOs and managers are going to have to radically change the way they think about employment in order to adapt to today’s world and succeed. In my mind, when an employee has finished the work they need to accomplish for the day, they should do whatever they want. They can go to the spa. Take the kids fishing. Work on their side-project. Even work another job. Several years ago I’d have balked at what I just wrote, but why the hell not?

One of the things I’ve come to understand over time is you need to be crystal clear about the expectations you have for employees. Like write-them-down-and-share-them-and-review-them-every-month-type-clear. It makes life super easy when it comes to performance management and to objectively tell when someone is living up to your expectations and doing their job well, or falling short. Writing them down and regularly reviewing them is also a great way to stay on the same page and course-correct if needed.

So when someone is living up to expectations and doing the work they need to do on a day-to-day basis, it really shouldn’t matter if they put in two hours a day or fifteen hours a day. In a world where things are becoming increasingly remote and virtual, outcomes matter most (they always did, but this is increasingly amplified). Meeting expectations matters. The raw number of minutes hunched over a keyboard doesn’t mean shit.

Now that doesn’t mean a two-hour day is for everyone. But for someone who wants to get the job done and then do other stuff, this option will become commonplace. Because why not? It makes sense. Other people will want to drastically exceed expectations and give their all to a thing and work tirelessly. It doesn’t necessarily make them better, it’s just different. You need both types of people when building a company. I’ve talked to several founders and technology execs recently that are internalizing this. It’s impacting the way people think about hiring and constructing teams and they’re rethinking roles especially for IC positions where it’s totally cool for someone to get the work done and that’s that. For people who want to do this, employers are going to have to quickly adapt because the most talented people who want variety and particularly prefer the IC route are going to likely pursue this option.

The world changed fast in the past two years, and this is a welcome evolution that will free a lot of people from the silly construct of a 9 to 5. So if you’re hiring for a role where you know exactly what you need and a candidate asks if they can leave after they’ve done the job, I hope you happily answer Yes.