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五小时工作制?每周工作四天?为什么不呢

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5-Hour Workdays? 4-Day Workweeks? Yes, Please.
五小时工作制?每周工作四天?为什么不呢

A German entrepreneur named Lasse Rheingans has become a subject of attention since The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a novel idea he has put in place at his 16-person technology start-up: a five-hour workday. Mr. Rheingans is not just reducing the time his employees spend in the office; he’s reducing the total time they spend working altogether. They arrive at 8 a.m. and leave at 1 p.m., at which point they’re not expected to work until the next morning.

自从最近《华尔街日报》(The Wall Street Journal)报道了他在自己的16人科技初创企业实践的新奇想法,德国创业者拉塞·莱茵甘斯(Lasse Rheingans)就引起了关注:他在公司施行了五小时工作制。莱茵甘斯不仅在减少员工在办公室的时间;他还在减少他们花在工作上的总时间。他们早上8点到,下午1点离开,此后一直到第二天早上,他们应该是不工作的。

This distinction between time in the office and time spent working is critical. In our current age of email and smartphones, work has pervaded more and more of our waking hours — evenings, mornings, weekends, vacations — rendering the idea of a fixed workday as quaint. We’re driven to these extremes by some vague sense that all of this frantic communicating will make us more productive.

这种在办公室的时间和工作时间的区分至关重要。在我们当前的电子邮件和智能手机时代,工作占据了我们越来越多醒着的时间——晚上、早上、周末、假期——让固定工作日的想法显得过时。驱使我们走向这种极端的是一种模糊的观念,即所有这些疯狂的通讯将使我们变得更高效。

Mr. Rheingans is betting that we have this wrong. His experiment is premised on the idea that once you remove time-wasting distractions and constrain inefficient conversation about your work, five hours should be sufficient to accomplish most of the core activities that actually move the needle.

莱茵甘斯赌的是我们错了。他的实验基于这样一个想法,即一旦你排除浪费时间的干扰事物,并限制有关工作的低效交谈,五小时应该足以完成大部分能真正带来显著变化的核心活动。

To support this new approach, he has employees leave their phones in their bags at the office and blocks access to social media on the company network. Strict rules reduce time spent in meetings (most of which are now limited to 15 minutes or less). Perhaps most important, his employees now check work email only twice each day — no drawn out back-and-forth exchanges fragmenting their attention, no surreptitious inbox checks while at dinner or on the sidelines of their kids’ sporting events.

为支持这项新的做法,他让员工把手机放在办公室的包里,并屏蔽公司网络上的社交媒体。严格的规定减少了花在会议上的时间(如今大多数会议限制在15分钟或更短时间内)。或许最重要的是,他的员工如今每天只查看两次工作邮件——没有冗长的来回交流分散他们的注意力,也没有在晚饭时或在场边看孩子打比赛时偷偷查看收件箱。

The Wall Street Journal described Mr. Rheingans’s approach as “radical.” But as someone who thinks and writes about the future of work in a high-tech age, I’ve come to believe that what’s really radical is the fact that many more organizations aren’t trying similar experiments.

《华尔街日报》形容莱茵甘斯的做法是“激进”的。但作为一个在高科技时代就工作的未来展开思考和写作的人,我开始相信,真正激进的其实是没有更多的组织在尝试类似的实验。

It’s easy to forget that the way so many of us work today is new. The term “knowledge work” wasn’t introduced until Peter Drucker’s 1959 book, “Landmarks of Tomorrow,” in which he argued that “work that is based on the mind” was poised to emerge as a major sector of an economy that was still at the time dominated by industrial production. He was of course right — by some estimates, close to half the United States work force is now engaged in these cognitive professions.

我们很容易忘记,今天我们许多人工作的方式是新出现的。“知识工作”一词直到彼得·德鲁克(Peter Drucker)1959年的《明日的里程碑》(Landmarks of Tomorrow)一书中才引入,他在书中提出,“基于头脑的工作”即将成为当时仍由工业生产主导的经济的一个主要部门。他无疑是正确的——根据一些估计,近一半的美国劳动力现在从事这些认知类职业。

But early knowledge work was still quite different from our modern professional lifestyle. To get from the “Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” era of long lunches and secretaries screening calls to our current experience of constant frantic connection, we must wait until the arrival of networked desktop computers during the 1980s and 1990s, which connected us digitally through tools like email, followed by the smartphone revolution in the 2000s, which made this connectivity ubiquitous. The approach to cognitive work that Mr. Rheingans’s “radical” plan seeks to upend, in other words, is at best 10 to 20 years old.

但早期的知识工作和我们的现代职业化生活方式仍有很大的不同。从有着长时间午餐和来电会经过秘书筛选的“穿灰色法兰绒西装的男人”时代,到我们当前持续疯狂的连接体验,我们必须等到20世纪80年代和90年代联网的台式电脑出现,通过电子邮件等工具将我们以数字方式连接起来,然后是21世纪初的智能手机革命,使这种连接无处不在。换言之,莱茵甘斯的激进计划寻求颠覆的认知工作方式,最多不过10到20年。

The history of technology and commerce teaches us that we should be skeptical of the idea that we’ve somehow figured out the best way to conduct knowledge work in the network age in such a short time. Consider an analogous revolution: the slow evolution of complex manufacturing. As late as 1913, Henry Ford, like most other automakers at the time, still built cars using the “craft method,” in which each vehicle was constructed in a fixed spot on the factory floor, with workers bringing over the various pieces needed for its assembly. Complex components like the magnetos were still constructed by hand by a single skilled worker at a stationary work bench. Cars at this point, in other words, were still being put together in largely the same way that Karl Benz built the first practical automobile three decades earlier.

我们在这么短的时间里就以某种方式找到了在网络时代进行知识工作的最佳方式,技术和商业的历史告诉我们,我们应该对这样的想法持怀疑态度。想想另一场类似的革命吧,复杂制造的演变是极其缓慢的。直到1913年,亨利·福特(Henry Ford)仍像当时的大多数汽车制造商一样,使用“手工法”制造汽车,每辆车都在工厂车间里的一个固定点制造,工人们把组装所需的各种零件运过来。像磁电机这样的复杂部件仍然是由一个熟练工人在固定的工作台上手工制造的。换句话说,当时的汽车在组装方式上与卡尔·本茨(Karl Benz)30年前制造第一辆实用汽车的方式大体相同。

The craft method of manufacturing was simple and convenient — directly scaling up the natural approach artisans had always used to assemble complex artifacts. But then Ford launched a series of bold experiments to explore approaches to this work that would trade simplicity and convenience for vastly more effectiveness. These experiments, of course, were successful. In early 1913, the labor time required to produce a Model T was around 12½ hours. By 1914, after Ford instituted the continuous-flow assembly line supported by specialized tools, this time dropped to only 93 minutes.

手工制造的方法简单方便——是将工匠们用来组装复杂工艺品的自然方法直接升级。但随后,福特启动了一系列大胆的实验,探索牺牲简单方便,换取更大效率的工作方法。当然,这些实验是成功的。1913年初,生产一辆Model T汽车所需的劳动时间大约是12.5小时。到1914年,在福特公司建立了由专用工具支持的连续流水装配线后,这个时间缩短到了93分钟。

I believe that knowledge work today is where automobile manufacturing was in 1913. The way we currently work is simple and convenient. Because everyone can talk to everyone at any time through email and instant messages, we just let work flow along as an unstructured conversation made up of missives flying back and forth through the electronic ether. This scales up the way we’ve always naturally collaborated in small groups.

我相信,今天的知识型工作与1913年的汽车制造业如出一辙。我们目前的工作方式简单方便。因为每个人都可以在任何时间通过电子邮件和即时消息与他人交谈,所以我们是在让工作以一种无组织的对话方式进行,由电子以太中飞来飞去的信件组成。这是我们之前的小团体自然合作方式的升级。

What Lasse Rheingans is attempting, by contrast, is much less simple and convenient. If I can’t simply reach you with a quick email at any time, my work is going to require more forethought; some things might even get missed, some clients occasionally made upset. But it’s worth remembering that the assembly line was also much more complicated and much less convenient than the craft method it replaced.

相比之下,拉塞·莱茵甘斯所尝试的则远没有那么简单和方便。如果我不能在任何时候简单地通过电子邮件与你快速联系,我的工作就需要更多深思熟虑;有些东西可能会被错过,有些客户偶尔会感到心烦意乱。但值得记住的是,比起它所取代的传统工艺方法,汽车装配线也要复杂得多,也不那么方便。

To believe, in other words, that our current approach to knowledge work — which is brand-new on any reasonable scale of business history — is the best way to create valuable information using the human mind is both arrogant and ahistoric. It’s the equivalent of striding into an early-20th-century automobile factory, where each car still required a half day’s worth of labor to produce, and boldly proclaiming, “I think we’ve figured this one out!”

换句话说,相信我们当前的知识工作方式——这种工作方式以任何商业历史的合理尺度来说都是全新的——是利用人类思维创造有价值信息的最佳方式,这显得既傲慢又不符合历史。这就好比大步走进20世纪初的汽车厂——当时生产一辆汽车仍然需要半天的劳动——然后大胆地宣布:“我认为我们已经彻底解决了这个问题!”

If I’m right and we’re still early in this new phase of digital knowledge work, then more productive — and hopefully much more meaningful and much less draining — approaches to executing this work remain on the horizon. No one knows exactly what this future of knowledge work will look like, but I suspect, along with Mr. Rheingans, that among other transformations it will reject the idea that always-on electronic chatter is a good way to efficiently extract value from human minds.

如果我是对的,而且我们仍然处于数字知识工作新阶段的早期,那么要执行这项工作,更有成效——希望也是更有意义、浪费更少——的方法仍然尚未出现。没有人确切地知道这种知识工作的未来会是什么样子,但我觉得,有了莱茵甘斯的例子以及其他变革,未来不会认为永远在线的电子聊天是有效从人类思想中提取价值的好方法。

This is why I am heartened to see stories like that of Mr. Rheingans’s short workday and, as was reported this week, Microsoft Japan’s experiments with a four-day week during the summer (which increased its productivity by 40 percent, according to the company). It’s not yet clear that these innovations are exactly the right way to run technology companies, or whether they can scale to other business contexts. But what is right in this case is the exploratory mind-set that led to these experiments in the first place. If like many digital knowledge workers, you’re exhausted by endless work and flooded inboxes, the good news is that better and more sustainable ways of producing valuable output with your brain might be coming — if we can find enough visionaries willing to try out “radical” new ideas about how best to get things done.

所以我很高兴看到莱茵甘斯这样缩短工作日的故事,正如本周的报道,微软日本在夏天尝试了每周四天工作制(据该公司称,这使它的生产率提高了40%)。目前还不清楚这些创新是否正是运营科技公司的正确方式,也不清楚它们能否扩展到其他业务环境。但在这种情况下,带来这些实验的探索性思维是正确的。如果你和许多数字知识工作者一样,疲于应付没完没了的工作和爆满的收件箱,好消息是,可能会有更好的方式,让你的大脑以更好、更可持续的方式提供有价值的产出——如果我们能找到足够多的远见者,愿意尝试以最佳方式完成工作的“激进”新观念。
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