Breathing The Joy Of Life Into Work
You only have to catch a commuter train to know that the world of work is broken- the faces of those passengers can tell you that 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged. We spend half of our waking lives working, so why not enjoy it?
It was the prospect of catching another one of those trains that prompted me to quit my traditional job in search of something more humane. Today’s modern working practices meant it was no longer reasonable to ask me to board that train for two hours a day, when I could perform the work I do from the comfort of my own home.
I would be happier that way- I’d use the commute time to exercise, or wake up later to feel more refreshed, then maybe even work longer. I would do better work, be better to work with, and everyone would stand to gain.
We spend half of our waking lives working, so why not enjoy it?
The 9-5, a crying shame
The Mon-Fri, 9-5 work structure is built on the basis of set working hours for everyone, and that individuals need to find ways to fit their life around this system, optimising the hours that remain. This is a paradigm that prioritises work above life.
Not only is that a crying shame, it also carries two fundamental flaws that will bring about its imminent demise.
- Firstly, individuals have different circumstances that mean a one-size-fits-all approach will never be fit for everyone.
- Secondly, as any parent will tell you, life doesn’t happen with the predictability of work.
The answer therefore, is a work system that embraces individuality, allowing people to select their working hours and location to fit their unique circumstances. We call it workstyle, and we believe it is key to creating a new paradigm that brings balance to the powers of work and life.
The Mon-Fri, 9-5 work structure is built on the basis of set working hours for everyone. This is a paradigm that prioritises work above life. That is a crying shame.
Workstyle is a concept being pioneered at The Hoxby Collective - an organisation we have created to prove the idea that workstyle can be the cornerstone of future organisational design.
Since we started in 2015, we have been amazed by not only the incredible talent we have acquired by operating outside the traditional system but by their reasons for joining us and the benefits our working model has brought;
As someone who reached burnout before starting Hoxby, I can relate to the mental health benefits of being free to work whenever and wherever I work best. Autonomy is one of our primary motivation factors and yet the outdated work system denies us the opportunity to explore it.
The confines of the industrial era
In releasing our people from the psychological confines of the industrial era, we removed the structural bias inherent in the system. By operating without walls and regardless of time, we force ourselves to appraise our performance against our achievements, not our time spent, our office presence, our gender, age or circumstance - we operate in a completely new paradigm.
No expectation to work from an office opens the door to work for millions of people who can’t commute or fit a commute into their schedule. No expectation to work set hours opens the door to work for millions of people balancing the demands of running a household or caring for relatives.
As someone who reached burnout before starting Hoxby, I can relate to the mental health benefits of being free to work whenever and wherever I work best.
Even more importantly, removing the demand for time and place makes work a more realistic prospect for people with physical or mental health conditions. It creates a level playing field for people of all ages and an opportunity to bring the full spectrum of humanity into the way our work gets done.
My mission is to make workstyle the normal way of work for the everyone, and in so doing bring much-needed happiness to humanity.
Motivated by his personal experiences of managing burnout and fatherhood, Alex Hirst is on a mission to embed flexibility into the very fabric of modern working practices for the benefits it can bring to people and companies alike. His company, The Hoxby Collective is creating meaningful work opportunities for increasing number of people falling out of the traditional work structure because their circumstances make it impossible for them. Alex and his co-founder Lizzie believe that the challenge of equality is not a question of gender but one of circumstances, and that to treat people equally requires a structure of work that accounts for individual circumstances.
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How are work outcomes affected by the treatment of those who do it? I have been exploring this question for ~50 years. In that time, one comment stuck with me more than any other. It was made in 1998 when I interviewed a group of men in Indianapolis who had redesigned most of the US city’s waste collection and disposal operations. “We are no longer expected to park our brains at the door when we come to work.”