Hack Your Work. Now, More Than Ever

man-hackingIn 2010, Josh Klein and I were honored and humbled when Harvard Business Review called our book, Hacking Work, one of the Top Ten Breakthrough Ideas of that year. (With this link, you can download the first half of the book for free. Enjoy!)

Now, looking back at eight years of massive disruptions, and having done lots more research on the future of work, I see only an increased need for you to hack your work.

Some stats to ponder…


…And that’s just the tip of the future of work iceberg. Yes, many of us will see opportunities soar tremendously in this highly-disruptive future. And yet many more will see their challenges and fears and stresses skyrocket beyond what they can manage.

As Josh and I wrote in 2010, “As these trends unfold, you must choose: Will you get squashed by these forces or, like all hackers, will you do something to play a role in the outcome?”

Work Smarter Hacktivism

We explored the underground world of forbidden frontline innovations — the act of getting what you need to do your best by creating and exploiting loopholes in corporate systems. Benevolent hacking is the duct tape of the work world — it fixes poorly designed systems and corporate-centered tools to get those systems to work for you, not just for the company.

We found that between one-third and two-thirds of all employees are performing these kinds of forbidden work smarter hacks every day. For many, it’s the only way that real work gets done! (See Hacking Work Manifesto video for more.)

So… If you haven’t already… Start hacking now!

If you are risk-averse: There are soft hacks. These are nothing more than the age-old practice of working your relationship with your boss to get what you need. Only now the stakes are a lot higher than no-big-deal changes, like switching vacation days. Instead, you should be redefining your workload and the projects you’re handed through workaround discussions with your boss — so you get more of what you need for personal success, not just delivering what the company needs. (See pages 37 to 44 in the book download for more.)

If you need to take more control: There are hard hacks. These change the non-living systems you’re handed. From as no-risk as using your Gmail address for work instead of the company-assigned address, to higher-risk, such as bypassing their firewalls, writing your own code, or using non-authorized devices, so you can work more productively. These hacks are not for everybody. But while they are higher risk, they also provide higher returns! Giving you a lot more control over your future. (See download for tips and ideas on how to do this.)

Even if those hacks are not for you: The most important hack of all is to venture into the Gig Economy while still keeping your full-time job: Start your own company, or be an Uber driver, a TaskRabbit freelancer, or an Etsy retailer. In the future of work, the riskiest position of all is being a full-time employee with only one daily income stream.

One hundred percent of tomorrow’s workforce must also be entrepreneurs!

Bill Jensen

Bill Jensen

Bill Jensen is the foremost thought-leader on workplace simplicity, an IBM Futurist, and author of eight best-selling books. He has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and The Wall Street Journal. As Mr. Simplicity, his mission is to make it easier to do great work and to hack stupid work. His research includes interviews and surveys with over one million people around the globe. He is CEO of the change consulting firm, The Jensen Group. You can contact Bill through email (bill@simplerwork.com) or his website.

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