What could work and life be like if we didn’t spend the super majority of our time consumed in our careers? This blog post won’t solve world peace or invent cold fusion. But it does present a framework for how white collar professional service, especially billable hour, careers could be better for employers and employees. My premise is simple. Pay people a salary based on 30 hours a week and then pay over time for more than that.
I’ve been chewing on this idea for a while. It’s not entirely fleshed out. I’m sure it has a few warts. My prose isn’t as polished as it might be. But, all in all, my idea rocks and could revolutionize white collar professional service careers and a wide array of other corporate ladder climbing careers. One day someone richer and more famous than myself will write this up for Harvard Business Review but you and I will know who came up with the idea first. Maybe I should trademark “30 Hours+” and sell t-shirts?
Let’s pretend that Bobby is a BI consultant with BestBI Inc. Billy is a salaried employee and makes $100,000 a year. BestBI bills Bobby to customers at an average rate of $185/hr.. So, BestBI is paying Bobby about $2,000 per week and would bill clients about $7,400 in my simplified example assuming Bobby billed 40 hours in any given week.
BestBI makes about $11,100 in that same week is Bobby bills 60 hours. That’s an extra $3,700 in profit that week for BestBI and well over an extra 100K per year if poor Bobby works long hours ever week. Guess what? BestBI has a financial motive to allow Bobby to work a heck of a lot of over time. We all know that.
Is it inherently evil for companies to want to make more money by asking, aka requiring, employees to work over time? Well no. But, it can lead to a pretty crappy lifestyle for Bobby the BI developer and frankly it’s really not a vision of optimized and efficient work for BestBI. People don’t tend to be as efficient in those over time hours when asked to burn the middle candle over, and over, and over again.
What if Bobby is paid a salary that covered up to 30 hours per week and then was paid an hourly rate for overtime past the first 30? And yes, the model presumes that bobby might be paid about 25% less. I’m going to call this salary model “30 Hours+” This model might throw a monkey wrench into consulting company business models that are designed to treat their employees like crap with constant overtime expectations. But, I think more evolved and mature companies will recognize that employees who are engaged and happy will be loyal, take care of the customer, and all in all find ways to do amazing stuff.
What about Bobby? Would could Bobby achieve if he had some margin in his life? Would Bobby be happier? More productive? Invent the next Google? I’m not sure. I know he’s be less stressed and more in control of his life. Maybe he’d choose to work over time on a regular basis. Maybe he’d volunteer at his church. Maybe he’s take a lot of naps. Maybe he would invent the next Google. I don’t know. It’s not really my job to know or decide what Bobby does with the time. But I do know that he would have the option of building a life that does that assume the vast majority of his productive waking hours is spent doing the stuff that pays the bills.
Let’s assume that Bobby doesn’t work much over time and sees his salary cut by about 25%. Do you think Bobby can live on that? I’m starting to stray into an entirely different blog post so I won’t go too deep. But, I’ll be blunt. Consultants and professional service white collar jobs tend to pay a heck of a lot. Like it or not we are truly the 1%. I’ll be straight with you. If you can’t find a way to be happy making 25% less money while having a more fulfilling life then you probably aren’t going to be happy with that extra 25% income no matter what it allows you to buy.
P.S. 30 hours+ easily lends itself to almost any type of job especially tech jobs. I wrote this blog post in context of a consulting model since that’s what I know best and didn’t have time or space to extend the argument to other jobs. But hopefully it’s easy to see how this could apply to almost any sort of salaried position. And no, I’m not advocating a European model that gives people a 60 weeks of vacation a year. I’m simply suggesting that we reinvent work so that people can have lives outside of work and that companies don’t have as compelling an interest think about how can I squeeze one extra hour of profit from my people.