Michael Eckstein is the managing director of the IT and web service provider 3m5. He believes in work that meshes with life and is currently on his own 6-month parental leave. At his company, he’s setting an example for what he hopes to see in the working world as a whole: more flexibility, more friendship and letting go of the 40-hour full-time mindset, even for managerial jobs. Clearly a Change Agent for us!
If you could change one thing about the job market right away, what would that be?
One topic that concerns me is the conditions of employment for managers. There is kind of a “silent agreement” that says that if someone becomes a manager, they have to work 40 hours (or more) a week. For many companies, it is unthinkable for a manager to work part-time, to arrive at the office last on some days, to leave the office first, or to work from home.
So, if I could change one thing on the job market, it would be the absurd hiring criterion that a manager has to work 40 hours or more to do the job. There should be many more flexible ways of working, including opportunities for working from home or reducing the number of hours (part-time leadership!). This kind of open approach to hiring not only makes employees happy; rethinking it also benefits the company by attracting people who would otherwise not work for them. With the rigid recruitment criteria for classic “full-time staffing,” companies exclude 50% of society, since those with children cannot and do not want to work a 40-hour week. I think Germany would do well by rethinking this matter.
By the way, in my own company, 3m5., one-third of the workforce works part-time and I’m very, very happy with it.
What’s wrong with the job market right now? What could work differently?
As I said earlier, there are too few part-time jobs and flexible work models that fit with people’s lives. As a result, an incredible amount of potential is lost. First and foremost, I think of the great mothers who do not want to do a classic full-time job. Their potential remains untapped because they are unwilling to accept classic full-time jobs – but they could definitely imagine working part-time. Things could be different if companies were more flexible in this respect. More and more companies – especially in the IT industry – are struggling to get the best people into their companies. Only a few are reconsidering their rigid hiring criteria for 40-hour jobs, and the rest “overlook” talent that they could win over if the jobs were designed flexibly.
Another topic close to my heart that I always strive for in my company is to create a friendly atmosphere. It has been scientifically proven that people who have a good friend in the office also feel better there. For me as a manager, this means making sure I maintain a friendly atmosphere. But that doesn’t work if it’s just about work. Businesses should create spaces and opportunities where private exchanges can emerge. We support this, for example, by having a breakfast for everyone every Friday, where we discuss everything except work for an hour. In addition, once a year, we all fly for 4 days to Mallorca and recover. This is not only good for our friendly atmosphere; such breaks also help recharge our batteries for everyday life.
How do companies have to set themselves up in the future? In which areas are “paradigm shifts” necessary?
In my opinion, a lot will be going on in the future about how I, as an employer, can inspire and win over great talent for my company. When it comes to recruiting, the question of “How can I get the employees I want for my company?” is becoming more important than ever. That’s because our future generation will be very picky about their employer. As a result, companies increasingly need to address the issue of how they can be attractive to the people they want. The ability to work from home or with flexible working models is becoming increasingly important to employees, and is a much more relevant factor than salary.
This paradigm shift is imperative – but that alone isn’t enough. In addition to this is the challenge of credibly spreading corporate values to the outside world and thus becoming an attractive employer.
Thank you for the interview, Mr. Eckstein.
In our #ChangeAgents section, we introduce people who encourage us to tackle and change things. Strong minds, who work with passion for a more humane working world, thus initiating a change in thinking and actively helping to shape change processes. Our #ChangeAgents are role models, lateral thinkers, multipliers and dissenters.