As the CEO of a company whose most tangible asset is billable time, this current pandemic-induced disruption is creating a potent opportunity to re-evaluate our thinking about time. For a whole lot of people around us, who are paid only for the hours they work, life just took a very, very frightening turn. A month ago, there weren’t enough people to fill all the work shifts in our hospitality and service industries. Today, more than three million Americans are seeking protection from the ravages of immediate unemployment. We’ve got lots of ‘time on our hands,’ and also lots of work that needs to be done: How can we reconcile those two things?

One of the profound illuminations that I predict will come out of this experience: We have really, really got out of whack in terms of the value we place (as a society) on the work many people do around us. Anyone thrown into the realities of ‘educating’ their children at home will forever think differently about the value we place on classroom teachers. Our first responders and health care workers will be positioned alongside military personnel as heroes worthy of lifetime consideration. The jobs we’ve had a hard time filling, like personal care attendants and early childhood education workers, will need to be re-evaluated, as well. They are being classified now as ‘essential workers’ and that changes things.

And those of us who can actually ‘work from home’ will need to be prepared for a very revealing assessment of how we use our precious time. Our previously jam-packed days (commuting, meetings, lunch, meetings, commuting) are now strangely filled with unassigned blobs of minutes, even hours. We can only focus on our screens for updates from favored news and social sites for so long before our gazes shift to a window, or the sky…or our eyes close as we contemplate where all of this is headed. WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THIS TIME?

Not that we haven’t questioned it in the past: I have tried for a decade to move away from the long-held business model of ‘selling time,’ in the same way that legal, accounting and other professional services have tried to establish a value-based orientation for their relationship with clients. As we all know, clients no longer want to ‘buy time:’ they want to pay for impact, or results, or an outcome.

But this is a different kind of assault on the idea of valuing time…

I don’t have the crystal ball to see how this will end; but, I’m actually very enthusiastic about the chance to rethink some of our time commitments and the value of them.

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