The Work-Life Balance Revolution
Yesterday, I had a gap in the middle of the day. So the Gotham Gal and I took an hour-long walk with our dog Ollie. It cleared my head and when I got back to work, I was full of energy and clarity.
I’ve been working exclusively from home since the end of November 2019 when we left NYC to go to LA. It has been a stretch of incredible productivity for me.
I am not arguing against going back to the office. As I’ve said in many posts recently, I can’t wait to go back to the office. But I am sure that many of us have had the same experience that I have had working from home during the pandemic. It has its advantages.
And in that realization exists the possibility that we are on the cusp on a revolution in how many of us can find work life balance going forward.
My friend Tom wrote this post last week suggesting that a husband and wife can now work a total of 50 hours a week between them and have two full-time jobs and raise a family. This part sums up the idea pretty well:
Why do I think 25 hours/ week is the equivalent of a 50-hour week (counting commuting)?
Given a nine-to five schedule with an hour for lunch, the 40 hour work week was only 35 to begin with.
As an ex-CEO, I think that at least ten hours of each workweek go to socialization, surfing the internet, checking with the spouse or checking up on the children, chatting on smartphones etc. (Mary thinks only five).
Meetings and travel to meetings waste a huge amount of time and money. One reason that Zooming appears not to have reduced productivity is that many of the meetings weren’t productive to begin with.
Office space and often parking are expenses to the employer but they are not income to the worker. If office space and all its attendant costs can be drastically reduced, employers can afford to pay more dollars in salary for the same productivity.
Commuting expense including perhaps even the second car, daycare, clothing and dry-cleaning bills, and paid before and after school activities whose purpose is to supervise school age kids are all expenses which go away when parents can work from home. Even if the WFH employee has less gross taxable income, he or she will have more cash at the end of each month.https://blog.tomevslin.com/2021/01/newnormal-the-50-hour-family-work-week.html
Even if Tom is off by a bit with his math, he makes a terrific point. Companies can ask for less of a family’s time, pay them more, and get the same amount of work done using the techniques we have perfected during the pandemic.
I realize that not all jobs lend themselves to this approach. But maybe more than you think. Take doctors. We used to have to go see doctors in their offices. Now with digital health services like those offered by our portfolio companies Brave and Nurx, the doctors are seeing the patients from their homes (or wherever they are).
Teaching is another occupation that presents a lot of opportunity to rethink time and location. Many teachers have been learning how to help their students master new things from their kitchen counters over the last year.
I want to say it again. I am not suggesting that we won’t be going to offices anymore. I am not saying doctors won’t have offices anymore. I am not saying teachers won’t be in classrooms anymore.
What I am saying is that we can and should be asking how much of our work time needs to be in person, face to face, and how much can be virtual. And I am certain that we will be asking that. In our year-end reviews at USV, we heard again and again from our team that they wanted to ask those questions. They should. Commuting and business travel are not the necessities they were last century.
And, naturally, this coming work-life balance revolution presents tremendous opportunities for new products, services, and companies. We have been seeing many of them crop up over the last year and have invested in a few of them.
From bad comes good. This pandemic and all of the things that have come with it has been awful. But I believe it will unleash all sorts of new behaviors and businesses that will be for the better. If you squint, you can see them coming.