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The end of the 20th century saw significant changes in the way we work. Perhaps the biggest was the movement toward the two-income family. No longer was dad working and mom staying home with the kids. Instead, both adults worked. As a result, we all ended up totally time-deprived, and the "currency" of the day shifted to time more than money. The family meal went from one hour to six minutes. The vacation went from two weeks to a weekend getaway. (Europeans still have four weeks; now that's living!) New service industries-from dog walkers to personal shoppers-showed up on the radar screen . . . and reaped great success.
Twenty or so years into this phenomenon, we're seeing new evolutionary shifts. Many two-income families are now 11/2-income families. One of the two earners in the household continues to focus more energy on his or her work, striving to obtain above-inflation raises, merit increases and promotions-anything to push the household income as fast as it can to higher levels.
The other wage earner, meanwhile, tries to "buy back more time." When offered, say, a 10 percent raise, this second wage earner will request 10 percent of his or her time back instead. A 10 percent raise could translate to having every Friday afternoon off, so the employee makes the same amount of money, but only works 41/2 days per week. After three or four years, what started as a full-time job becomes only three days per week.
In some households, the dual-wage earners actually shift the "remuneration to time worked" equation back and forth between themselves with the ambition of both people eventually obtaining a four-day workweek.
In several interviews with households that have adopted this strategy, I've noticed these workers are actually more committed to their jobs. They feel their employers understand the constraints of living today, plus the stress of being a good spouse and parent as well as a good employee.
Identifying new lifestyles can be an excellent way to attract and maintain workers. As we all know, time is money. Maybe your business will be better served should you reward employees with time instead of cash in the future.
Watts Wacker-lecturer, best-selling author, political commentator, social critic and CEO of FirstMatter-is one of the world's most respected futurists.