The Hourly Wage Needs to End (Well, Sort of…)

During this extended period of enforced inactivity, I’ve had a considerable amount of time to think about various topics in a way that I hadn’t really approached in the same way I did back when I had specific things to worry about every day. When you don’t have a rigid schedule forcing your mind into specific patterns all day, it’s much easier to come up with more random ideas and different ways to approach them. While I’m certainly not a fan of living on unemployment, I will say that it certainly helps with creativity. It has certainly unlocked one of the problems I have with the modern business model.

One of the biggest things I hate about being an employee is the idea that it feels like I’m going to prison for eight plus hours per day. You go into a job where someone is paying you to do something, and there is no real chance of minimizing your exposure to that environment. You’re there for a full eight hours, or you get a reduced paycheck or you get fired. The schedule is the schedule, and you’re going to follow the schedule…end of story. There is no wiggle room for those of us who might want to do better or minimize our time at the work place.

The absolute worst way to make money is by selling your time. This is one of the basic fundamental ideas that wealthy people understand. It is those people who have come up with ways to sell something that doesn’t require their own personal hands on activity that are able to make lots of money. Making a living beyond the standard income absolutely requires some kind of scalability, and if you want to make the big bucks you absolutely have to have something that doesn’t require your individual attention all the time.

However, for those of us who don’t have the creativity or opportunity to come up with something that works in this way, there is another way to make the work we do more bearable and much more fair: value based pay. This is the idea that you get paid for work completed, not the amount of time spent on whatever it is that you’re doing. Complete twenty widgets and you get paid twenty dollars. You get paid for the amount of effort you put in rather than the amount of time you spend at the office or in the factory or whatever it is that you’re doing.

As someone who has always struggled with the fact that I tend to get things done much more efficiently and quickly than most people, this kind of pay structure really suits my style of work. I detest being chained to a desk all day when there really isn’t enough work to justify my being there for a full day. I can’t even fathom the sheer number of hours I’ve spent just sitting at my desk zoning out or watching videos or finding other ways to just pass the time when I was supposed to be working, all because of this idea that we had to be there for eight hours. How many hours and dollars are wasted every year by following this inefficient method of work?

The root of the issue is the fact that there is no incentive for employees to find ways to maximize their output. As someone who has done office administration for nearly a decade now, I can tell you that I have personally found little or no reason to find things to do when the primary activities are all done. Why should I bother? What’s in it for me? I get paid the same whether I do a lot of work or just a little bit of work. I’m being paid to be there, not to be productive. Where is the motivation to do more?

This is why a time based pay system just doesn’t work for a lot of jobs. Certainly it makes sense for certain service related positions where you need to have someone available for a specific period of time, such as hospitality or customer service, but probably most of the jobs out there are based on getting specific tasks completed and would benefit greatly from a value based pay system. If I get paid based on the amount of work I complete rather than the amount of time I spend at my desk, I’ll be much more motivated to go and find things that need to be done rather than just sitting around and watching the clock until it’s time to go home.

Now obviously there would need to be some kind of minimum daily pay to ensure that you’re not getting screwed just because there isn’t a lot that needs to get done in a given time period. People smarter than me could figure out the specifics of what would be fair based on employee skill and experience and other factors. I’m sure there are myriad facets of such a system that would need to be carefully considered on an individual company basis to make sure that it is fair and equitable for everyone.

The point is that many of us aren’t really lazy, we just don’t believe in putting in effort that we aren’t benefitting from. I can spend hours agonizing of the tiniest of details when I’m working on something that is important to me because it’s something that has some sort of intrinsic benefit to me. The three hundred plus hours I’ve put into my survival mode of the video game Raft can absolutely attest to my OCD nature when I’m working on something that has value to me.

One of my biggest desires is to have a job where I can put that kind of time and attention into something, but I can only find the motivation to do it if there is some kind of direct reward. The promise of a potential future promotion isn’t enough to entice me to put in the extra effort, mostly because my efforts alone aren’t the only factor that determines my reward and I can put in a huge amount of effort and still have no reward if things just don’t work out. It relies on others choosing to put me in that position, and I don’t like relying on someone else to decide my rewards.

Having a system where there is an immediate benefit to putting in more work is ideal for people like me who hate wasting a lot of time, mostly because it provides me with the choice of just putting in a few hours of work to meet the minimum for the day, or staying longer so I can bank some more cash. It would provide me with a sense of agency that a straight hourly wage just doesn’t allow. While I personally probably won’t stay long hours trying to make a bunch of extra money, it would provide me with the benefit of having more time to do what I want rather than slaving away all day at a job that doesn’t really justify an eight hour shift.

But hey, change is hard, and what employer do you know that really cares about how their employees feel?

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