The way I view work has been in a constant state of evolution since I started my business back in 2005.
I wasn’t born into wealth, so to earn a living I’ve had to work – essentially allowing someone else to put a value on my time and labour and then exchanging both of those resources for money. For years I didn’t give much thought to this system: It was just the way things were done. Fast forward a few decades and now I’m the one setting a value on a person’s time and labour, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this is wrong. Very wrong.
I like to think I’ve been a good boss. I’ve paid above the minimum wage, set short working weeks, had things like sanitary products and fresh fruit – and even the occasional pizza – available at no cost to employees. While I’m sure these things made work more pleasant for people, it was still work, and the people I employ enjoy only a small amount of control over their time. Almost everything they do – sleep, eat, arrange childcare, enjoy leisure time, etc – has had to be structured around me and the work I give them. I have become increasingly uncomfortable with this arrangement. It has to end.
Last week, I spoke with each employee and asked them how much take-home pay they’d need to live comfortably and not have to worry about money. The amounts they gave were all within a few pounds of each other, and none were unreasonable. We then looked at the hours needed to cover the warehouse work and admin. When we looked at fairly distributing this time between employees, we were surprised at how few hours were needed from each person to keep the business ticking over comfortably (Brexit willing, of course).
And here’s where I believe it gets interesting. Each employee was offered a little more money than they needed in exchange for their contributing twelve hours a week to the business with the understanding that the goal is to treat the company as a resource that gives us all a decent standard of life. If a few more hours are needed, we’ll work them. If fewer are required, we’ll go home. No one will be docked pay for sickness, bad weather, children, etc so that every month they can rely on the comfortable sum they requested.
The result of all of this should be that everyone has a vested interest in protecting the business and keeping it healthy. The business looks after them, so they look after the business. Because the team is small, no one would even think of letting anyone else down. I no longer have to feel guilty exchanging money for such a big portion of an employee’s day. Instead, employees are choosing to contribute their time in exchange for a fairer piece of the pie. We will all have the money we need to live on without having to sacrifice most of our waking hours to work.