It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, by Jason Fried and David Heinmeier (Harper Business, October 2018) is the anti-hustle manifesto. For anyone who’s owned a business or who works in an ambitious business the ideas put forward in here will sound both like a big breath of fresh air and a crazy concept that could put your business on the road to ruin.
The essence of Fried and Heinmeier’s advice is to stop slavishly following the long-standing belief that the harder you work and the more ambitious you are, the more successful you will be. There is a lot of common sense in here, and as someone who has definitely fallen into the habit of long stretches of 60 hour work weeks, the advice feels like a soothing balm for the state of high anxiety so many businesspeople exist in.
The book recommends things like avoiding shared access to calendars to protect employees’ time, doing away with stated business goals or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and focusing simply on doing great work every day. It might sound like nirvana, and according to the authors it has worked well for their business, but it raises questions: what happens if you do you best work but you don’t grow, and don’t generate significant profits? It all sounds a bit too good to be true.
I understand and admire what the authors (both very successful businesspeople) are doing. They are calling time on the relentless pursuit of bigger, better, faster. In many ways, they are challenging the stigma that exists among many entrepreneurs that there’s something inherently unambitious about building a profitable ‘lifestyle’ business – though they haven’t said that outright.
Even if you can’t bring yourself to follow all their advice, it’s worth taking a couple of hours out of your daily hustle to read this book. It will shine a light on the insanity that has come to characterise so much of our daily work: the emails that prompt visits or text messages if they don’t get an immediate response. The multi-hour meetings with six people who simply don’t need to be there (where most of them are looking at a device while there anyway). The requirement to work away from the office or outside work hours in order to actually get real work done. The relentless interruptions from our phones, our emails, our messaging platforms, our project management tools.
There is much to love about this book – from the practical suggestions for benefits your employees will love (paid vacations – I mean paying for the actual vacation – anyone?). Take it for what t is – one company’s story about how they are challenging the status quo and making it work.