25 March 2010

Time, Place and Productivity Myths

So an interesting statement came to me from a prospective client at an introductory meeting: "Employees would never be able to show commitment or maintain productivity levels in their work if they are not present in our company offices from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m." Does being physically present in an office environment create the necessary motivation to ensure high productivity? I am still surprised at hearing such statements from some Managers today in our age of digital media and online capabilities.

I do understand that there are many corporate issues that lead Management teams to create policies around employee work hours and location. These issues range from intellectual property risks to increased customer service demands for a more personalized buying experience. However, can't we look at what we might be doing to employees by overstaying their physical presence and having them work awfully crazy hours on site? Let me take this opportunity to remind the world that employee engagement is directly proportional to trust, flexibility, a focus on results rather than effort, and most of all being individually valued. Let's look at the top 3 myths I come across in my consulting work here in the UAE and how this has actually affected bottom-line productivity.

Myth 1. More time spent means more output. C'mon folks, this is simply not true. The harder you work does not mean you get better results. Your employees need to be doing the right things in the right doses directed at the right recipients. 80% of productivity is achieved by focusing on 20% of the right effort through the right people. In fact, studies have shown that employees who stay beyond 5:30 p.m. at their offices do not have best use of their minds, which means making mistakes is a high probability. I also know of plenty of companies here in the UAE that still require their employees to attend work 6 days a week. This has shown to create significant retention challenges as well as being undervalued as a person especially for those who value family time.

Myth 2. Being physically present in the office increases organisational commitment. Coming to a dedicated workspace might be necessary for certain industries where workspaces are specifically designed. But in order to attract the best talent, corporations must offer flexible options of a work life. For example the UAE still struggles with the concept of part-time jobs, (flextime and daycare centers are a long way to go). There are many special interest groups such as women, students, employees with physical disabilities that would love to have a career part time and make significant contributions to the organisation. With at least 2 of my past clients, employees have indicated that the only reason they are made to stay in the office even after working hours is that there is a lack of willingness on the part of higher-ups to trust that enough has been done in the day. This is a clear symptom of the organisation not having laid out performance and results objectives and criteria. Judge your people on performance and results folks, not if they are still in the office at 9 p.m. They might in fact be managing their time badly!

Myth 3. Women with family responsibilities are prone to be less effective. In the UAE, it is perfectly legal to ask a woman on an interview whether she is married with children and if she would be dedicated enough to concentrate on her job as a result. Elsewhere, this question about marital status is downright illegal because the science proves that being married does not take away from job performance. In fact, the latest studies show that women are better managers than men due to the various responsibilities they are gifted to handle. They are adept at multi-tasking, and are generally more sensitive to people issues which makes them an excellent choice for managerial posts. So please, the next time you come across a woman applicant know that she holds a vast reservoir of skill and temperament. I would instead advise recruiters to ask men and women alike, "What is your magical formula for maintaining a healthy work-life balance?"

There you have it. I hope I have planted the seed of thought a little bit and managed to dispell some very prominent myths so entrenched in our part of the world.


Blogger Girish S Nair said...

So very true Mubeena. The same is true here in India as well. I am aware of so many managers, who would rate you low because you had not really S T R E T C H E D enough at work! Most managers still believe that extended work hours mean "more work being" done.

This is unfortunte especially to several men who are forced to stay extra hours at office just to satisfy their bosses' already inflated egoes.

April 07, 2010 9:55 AM  

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