Count Results, Not Hours
This summer, the future of the American workplace is being argued in—of all places—the halls of state government. Utah Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. mandated that most of his executive branch employees switch to a "compressed" workweek in an effort to save energy costs and reduce the state's carbon footprint. In Ohio, Governor Ted Strickland went in the opposite direction. Tired of state offices being empty on Fridays, he eliminated Ohio's decades-old flextime policy in the name of customer service. Both leaders are in a bind that is familiar to businesses everywhere. Brutal prices at the pump are driving up costs and intensifying angst over the environment. At the same time, consumer expectations about getting goods and services around the clock have also never been higher. Employees are demanding more freedom and control to keep up with life's busy pace, while employers struggle to compete in the global, 24/7 marketplace. Which governor got it right? Neither.
Both decisions were born of a false set of assumptions that can be expressed in the formula: Time + Physical Presence = Results.
In an industrial economy, this formula made perfect sense. In an information economy, it crumbles. Most of us can communicate anything at any time from anywhere. Work has stopped being a place you go and started to become something you do. Work is happening at all hours, across all borders and time zones. The only question anyone really wants an answer to is: "Did you get it done?"
Four-day workweeks are a start. But they aren't the answer. At a time when most of us can carry the office in our pockets, we'd like to get you thinking about a new kind of flextime in a new kind of workplace—one that measures output instead of hours.
First, the question Governor Strickland needs to ask is: What does good customer service look like? Putting the focus on results and taking the focus off of time leads to innovative problem solving. Talk about outcomes instead of schedules. If you offer a compressed workweek, don't require your employees to ask your permission for what day they choose not to work. It may sound chaotic, but if you're focused on results instead of time, then people will figure out a way to make it work. It's also crucial to embrace your employees' different work styles. Judging people on how they use their time is counterproductive. Instead treat people like grown-ups who know what's best for themselves and for business. Stop assuming that if someone's body is in the building, you are getting something out of their mind. As a business leader, would you rather have someone do rock-star work in less time or mediocre work in more?
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