The Long Days Shift
Long before Covid, many people worked from home. Working from home takes discipline and scheduling in even more ways than working in an office. Some organizations were highly proficient in working remotely as well. Over the years, they developed working patterns, rules, and mutual understanding with their employees. They have operational maturity and many lessons learned in this space.
One of the significant issues with working from home was the amount of extra time that a person would put in. It was much harder to know when to stop. I was challenged with it myself. I would sit down and find the day had passed into the night. Regarding actual productivity from an organizational perspective, the results could vary. If a person is highly dependent on a team or other individual contributors, it doesn’t matter how long they sit at a keyboard and whack away at it. The other people matter and if they aren’t doing their part, the work may not be completed. Then again, all the work may fall on one person.
Working from home, people need to say, “I’m done for now” and stop working.
In 2020, Covid hits, the rest of the world is forced into working from home and things change dramatically.
Initially, many people were putting in exceptionally long days. Companies found productivity going through the roof with only one explanation! Remote work allowed people to move out of the cities and work in tropical environments. It saved gas money, allowed people to have more hours back from traveling in traffic and many other things. There are so very many benefits to working remotely, it seems strange that some companies today are fighting it. If remote working is so great and productive, why would companies be against it?
Present isn’t Presence
If we had factual data on remote work, we would most likely see a great surge in productivity from the start of Covid which starts to drop off as people start to gain maturity in working from home. This would be consistent with what mature working from home scenarios with companies that have experience with this way of working. The problem is that many organizations weren’t ready for remote work in the first place. Once they were forced into it, they saw all the upside but didn’t understand the model. Since many organizations don’t have people truly dedicated to the “ways of work”, senior leaders were and still are wrangling with what to do.
As we head into three years of the pandemic, work has not returned to normal. People don’t want to go back to work in the same way. Many people know they can be more productive and put in less working hours. Organizational leaders look for people to be in their seat. They look for the location of people and the activity on their working devices or emails exchanged.
I’ll offer, being present online, having activity on devices does not represent in any way productivity. It reflects “activity” which is not productivity. Productivity means we “produced something.” We can click the letter “a” on our keyboards all day and produce nothing. Many organizational leaders are buying productivity tools, activity monitoring tools and looking for ways to track employee’s location. The response from employees is a harsh backlash. People feel that trust is being violated or that the tracking is an invasion of privacy. Forcing people back into the office doesn’t make sense to them either. If people are located around the world and a person works remotely with other people by the nature of the job, what sense does it make coming to an office to work remotely with others?
When I have two choices, I’ll always choose the third
One of the more popular terms today is “quiet quitting.” We have all heard about this trend which abstractly says that people are doing the bare minimum at work instead of giving it their all. Social media along with a bunch of trend followers picked up on the term and ran with it. Sorry to say, people have been doing this since work started. Along with “quiet quitting” we have the four-day work week and all sorts of other ideas out on how to do less at work but stay productive to some extent. I almost wrote to “stay, maintain or grow” but that isn’t the attitude. The attitude is “you pay me to push this one button, I only push the one.”
My great friend and mentor Phil Folz teaches, “when you are looking at a difficult situation, flip it upside down, examine it and come at it from multiple perspectives, the answer will reveal itself.”
While I am still very much a proponent for remote work, I believe we need to mature much faster from an organizational perspective. Meaning, organizations should hire people with expertise in working from home. They need to establish working rules and understanding with employees. Most of all, they need to listen to employees. However, the nature of productivity speaks to “productiveness” meaning people produce something. This is where things must change.
While people may still have a salary, they need to be responsible to produce meaningful outcomes. Measures of performance and measures of impact or effectiveness may be put in place with indications of productivity. While this is hard, it is not impossible. If Elon can land a rocket booster on a moving platform in the sea, we can figure out how to determine if Sally did what she needed to do to get the work she is responsible for completed in the time allotted to her.
Would you believe that someone already figured some of this out? It is amazing!
While there will be more work and people invested in the definition of productivity, measures and performance, companies would NOT require activity monitoring, location monitoring, or even time cards. Could you imagine, no time cards? People get paid for the work they do! Isn’t this what the next generation wants anyway?
Organizations can shift into working models.
The first model is the “All you can eat buffet”, they pay for a person to meet organizational or business goals and objectives relative to their specific role. These are not time based and these are not monitored other than, if the outcome, goal or objective was attained. If a person meets the goal partially, depending on the situation, they may get partial credit which over time will be reviewed as part of performance.
The second model is “Ala Carte”, people get compensation for specific, measurable and attainable goals and objectives. If they don’t meet them, they don’t get all the money. “Whoa, WHOA, WHOAAAAAAAA Howie…but you… you can’t do that.. because that isn’t fair, what if I did all my work but didn’t make my goal?” Well, this is true, they could have failed for some reason that wasn’t their fault. Let me ask you this question, if you went to a restaurant and the waiter failed to bring you water or your meal or a part of your meal even if it wasn’t his fault, would you pay for it anyway? Nope, so this is business, what makes it different? In fact, small business owners deal with this all the time. If this generation wants to be different and they want to work whenever they want let them, have it. When they do decide that work is important, they can accomplish what they set out to do. It is called “accountability.”
I am sure we can come up with some mixed or hybrid models that meet the needs of business. All said, organizations will benefit from getting out of the time card business and focusing on organizational and business outcomes. The net result of a clear investment in measures, will teach organizations about their performance in business and inform them of what changes they need to make to accomplish more. They can still love employees, they can still invest in employees and employees can have the freedom they desire, as long as they do what they agreed to do for the organization and met their personal, professional, and organizational goals.
This approach can save companies billions of dollars and change the way or work.
What do you think?