Seasonality in digital work

During my summer vacation I had a nice chat with our landlord. He works as a golf trainer during summer season and a painter during winter season. Painting helps him to recover from the draining physical work as a trainer.

This got me thinking. Didn’t we always have some kind of seasonality in our work? I expect physical jobs like farmers, hunters, or woodcutters follow the yearly seasons. I imagine that in the past our life and work was fundamentally different during each season. I like the thought of a “harvest season”. Each year you reap the results of your work, have a huge harvest party, then move on to something different. You know that the current work season will end at date x, no matter how challenging it is at the moment. Also it allows to have different modes of mental and physical strain.

This is something I miss in digital work. Digital work is always on, often turned to 11, with minimal physical variety throughout a year. Sure we have some seasonality with project or product lifecycles and fiscal years. But I miss true long term cycles that follow natural seasons.

In my professional network I see many digital workers change their job every 2-4 years. Changing jobs brings a kind of seasonality of “onboarding, producing, offboarding, repeat”. Wouldn’t it be nice to have seasonality in each position to avoid this pattern?

Here are some ideas I have that could introduce some seasonality:

  • Customer facing positions have 2 month/year of internal work. This allows them to focus on optimising processes and products.
  • Internal positions have 2 month/year where they join customer projects. This allows them to get first hand insights from customers.
  • Everyone works 10 month/year in home office and 2 month/year onsite.
  • Everyone has the option to work 2 month/year from a different office.
  • Everyone has 1-2 month/year of dedicated training.
  • Customer facing positions have the option to switch their projects every 9 month.
  • Daily work hours are longer in the winter and shorter in the summer.

I know some of these topics are not good for productivity. But keeping employees also has benefits like reducing hiring and onboarding costs.

So what do I do now after realising this? My first step is to work part time. I am very grateful that my current employer Plan.Net offers me the option to work part time. This allows me to have a fixed set of days each week where I have typical digital project work. On the rest of the week I can work the way I want, following the seasons. E.g. I can spend more time with the family during summer and do some side project work on the winter. A perfect balance of safety and variety. I am positive that I can extend this mode of work for a very long time.