There is an interesting wave of less work, more life mentality change going on in the technology business. This is not new and it has been happening in waves if you look across the borders of the one business paradigm. Research has been done and experiences are shared. Henry Ford was one of the first to publish a big research about the subject and the measure was set at an optimum of 40 hours a week. Is that so? I know people who need more space and want to work less to be more productive. Others are completely the opposite, work hard for a couple of months and take a full month off to do other things. Some are even doing work just for fun.
Some people swear that working long and inconsistent hours gives them more freedom to think about things. Not restricted by the 9 to 5 hours and allowing themselves to continue in a flow when they are in it. Others find that time at home and quiet time really helps them prepare for a productive day. Others try to mix the two. But is it time that ultimately helps us the be more productive, or is it something else?
Different people, different needs
What I found mostly during my own search to the answer of the work and personal balance game is that different people have completely different needs. Some take a look at a problem for hours before they start and solve it. Others just start and figure it out as they go along. There are many examples like that where people approach things differently, be just as productive but just take different routes to get there. Productivity is not always doing what should work most efficient but maybe even more what is most efficient for you.
The workplace also provides different virtues to different people. Some might favor a challenge in the workplace, others want to be able to provide their live outside of work. Different people with different needs to work. In the start-up world it is not likely you will join a company for the stability. A start-up is a place that can be stopped at short notice. The pay is not bad but also not the best out there. There is one thing start-ups have an abundance of, challenges. The challenge of solving a new problem, the challenge to work with and create new technologies or the challenge of building a new company. These are all very common reasons why a start-up might be interesting for you. But there are always options in how you work. Whatever you need is dependent on what works for you.
Different needs, different generation
The needs are something personal but also something share with people around you. People in your generation are going through the same phases of life and therefore share needs. A student might just need a room with a bed and a desk. But as you grow older these needs change. Building a family comes in to play and focus shifts from you, to spouse, to children. These are all things that people face in a certain phase of their lives. Treehouse does a 4 day workweek and clearly states that employees prefer spending an extra day with their families. Even the blogger Ryan Carson states in his bio: “I’m a Father, entrepreneur and lover of movies. Founder and CEO of Treehouse.”. Family clearly has a high priority in his generation.
If we look at the younger generation… they don’t have a family yet. They would rather spend a dinner at the office with people than to go home on their own and have dinner there. And there is the older generation with no children at home. Either as there were no children or they have already left the home the older generation savors other things in life. Longer vacations abroad, trips and other activities are things they enjoy. They will gladly spend the extra time for a couple of weeks to have an extra week of vacation time.
Every generation has it’s specific needs that come from either practical or life phase differences.
Different generation, different culture
Looking at the generation there is also another difference that you can see. There is a different in business culture. A company like SoundCloud could have never been founded by business driven people. The people who started the company were young, had a idea for a technology that was disruptive and they had the passion for music to do it. The three cultural pillars they got from that were brawn, balls and passion. Somebody with just an eye for money would not be able to even think of the idea, let alone build it. The music culture was definitely something that drove them to do what they did.
Different generations can share a culture but they can only share part. In the example of SoundCloud you must have some kind of connection with music to be able to work there. Even if you would put a music fanatic next to a movie fanatic they would have nothing to talk about within SoundCloud but they might still share some parts of the same culture. This wile an electronic music fan can have an interesting conversation with a fan of classical music. This connection with a passion is one of the reasons why there are so many development, project management, issue tracking and other IT related tools out there. For the people building the products the culture is very close to what they are doing themselves. A strong cultural connection with the product that is being made. A employee at Yammer uses their own product not just because they work for the company, but also because they believe in the culture that comes with it.
I do not think that working more or working less actually matters. The thing that matters is if the company’s culture and lifestyle works for you and phase of your life you are in.