Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

I’m So Bursty!


I’m doing some research for an article on how trends like globalization, the need for sustainable development, and increasing connectivity, will affect IT generally and, specifically, the company who hired me to write the article. One of the trends that’s going to affect us all is the change in the way we work. My inhouse guru of all things techie sent me a link to a blog called Anne 2.1 where a tech wizard called Anne Zelenka talks about two work styles: busy and bursty.

Someone who is busy works a set number of hours, does required face time in the office, makes sure they leave later than the boss, behaves according to a received hierarchy. Some who is bursty is unconventionally productive, has flat networks, spends a lot of time online and surfing. The old paradigm does not like the new paradigm much, because it LOOKS so unproductive.

In another post on Web Worker Daily, Anne goes on to differentiate the two work styles:

Busy: Show your face during all standard working hours.
Burst: If you produce what you need to, we don’t care when you do it or how long it takes.

Busy: Immediate response to email required.
Burst: Use better ways to communicate when available including blogs, wikis, IM, chat rooms, SMS, and RSS.

Busy: Manage the hierarchy inside your company.
Burst: Connect laterally outside your department and company.

Busy: Always available during working hours.
Burst: Declarative availability.

Busy: Web surfing is bad.
Burst: Web surfing fertilizes and seeds the soil of the mind.

Busy: Long-term planning rules.
Burst: Try agile experimentation and fast failure instead.

She concludes:

We need the busy AND the burst economy. The busy economy gives us our groceries, our electrical power, and our newspapers every morning. However, many companies will find themselves at risk of not benefiting from the hyperproductivity of the burst economy because to the busy, it looks like an excuse for slacking off rather than blasting off.

With my declarative availability, blogging, frequent Web surfing, sporadic productivity, lateral connections, I just realised – thanks to Anne – that I am Ms Bursty. However, putting my new paradigm smugness aside, I’ve also realised that this style of work is wonderfully suited to work-from-home parents like myself. It’s a way to fit work and life together, so that the two need not be separated. I work according to need at strange times of the day and night, and in between I fit in managing a home and family. The classical divide of stay-at-home parent or working parent is being eroded, and I think that’s thrilling and amazingly empowering for women.

It’s heady but great out here on the cutting-edge.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

11 thoughts on “I’m So Bursty!

  1. Charlotte: Thanks for mentioning my post! I’m so glad to hear it resonated with you. I’m at work-at-home mom and I couldn’t agree with you more that bursty styles of work fit right in with parenting. I personally cannot imagine going back to a 8-to-6 job in a cubicle where I’m judged based on face time and meeting other people’s rules.

  2. Reading your post, I think I’m bursty too. I always manage to get everything done but I feel guilty about the so-called non-productive times – this makes me feel better.

    I’m also a piler rather than a filer. Do you think these things go together? This reminds me of my friend Legal Eagle’s post on messy desks

  3. Your final remarks did make me laugh! I think having children forces one to be bursty, but as I get older so I find that a more regular work schedule suits me better. Oh and pass me that blanket and hot water bottle will you? I want to get on with my knitting…

  4. “[…]thrilling and amazingly empowering for women.” How about men? I am probably the icon of ‘bursty’, but in my very conventional work environment, I have had to disguise my condition for close to a decade now. I am dying for some teleworking.

  5. Anne, I couldn’t imagine it either. The way I work really suits me.

    Miss V, I am a piler! Perhaps piling and burstiness do go together.

    Litlove, regularity is good too. There’s nothing wrong with order. It just seems that the new work model is going to be more project-based.

    Mandarine, bursty is liberating and empowering for men too. When I wrote that I was thinking of the millions of stay-at-home mothers who are disempowered by the classic divide between home and work, and that the new model might help them to do both. I love that you are the bursty poster-child in your heart, if not in your actual job.

  6. And I was thinking about the millions of stay-at-work dads who are so alienated they do not realise how happy they’d be if they could work from home (at least part-time).

  7. oooh! I’m bursty! And here I thought I was just lazy and liked to procrastinate! makes sense though…

  8. oh, I’m bursty as well! finally something sounding better than “perpetually distracted” or “procrastinator” – hurrah!

  9. Bursty. Yup, that’s me. Luckily my boss accommodates it or I’d be in serious trouble…

  10. I’m definitely bursty, but with “busy” guilt, having worked in busy environments all my life. (Thus, for instance, as a telecommuter, I make sure I frequently check and answer email, so everyone knows I’m “at work” all day). I’ll never forget in the first few months of my old job, sitting at my desk with nothing to do when I knew I could be at a library being very productive, but my “busy” boss, of course, wanted me at the office, even if that meant twiddling my thumbs.

  11. I’m bursty, of course! I love this blog, Charlotte, and tag you for a new little game that is going around. If you want to play, directions to the rules are on my blog.

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