Selling hours


This post is by Seth Godin from Seth's Blog


This might be the workplace question of the decade.

Does the boss buy your time or your productivity?

In the pre-industrial age, when we worked from home (“cottage industries”) workers got paid by the piece.

As we moved to factories, it shifted. Many workers preferred a reliable regular paycheck, and owners decided to profit by investing in productivity and keeping the upside. When new machines show up, the workers don’t get paid more, but the boss makes more.

Now, as work-from-home promises/threatens to become a norm for many knowledge workers, the question is back.

Some bosses are demanding workers return to the office, and some managers have spent the last year forcing people to endure endless zoom meetings. The mindset seems to be that if your time is what got purchased, the boss wants to be sure you’re spending all of that time at work on work, not, who knows, tending for an ill family member or something.

But as it gets easier to measure productivity and contribution, and as it gets easier to outsource any task that can be described clearly, there’s a fork in the road:

If we’re not buying or selling hours, what, exactly do we measure and how are we compensated for it? Are workers ready or open to getting a commission, a profit-share or a per-piece price? And if we’re not selling our time but our contribution, does that further self-center the culture?

And if we are buying and selling hours, how does that work (Read more...)