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Food for Thought: “Results Only” for Productivity

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I’ve been writing a good deal about different approaches to the work environment in order to increase work productivity and often referred to how working at home or having control over time has an effect on worker morale and productivity.

Yesterday, the NY Times had this great article on approaches to work hours entitled, Time Wasted? Perhaps It’s Well Spent. I probably got to skip over reading this while writing about the 20-hour work week idea.

In any case, the NY Times article points out that American workers slave in the office for around 45 hours a week but slack off for 16 of those hours. It also cites other takes like AOL and Salary.com’s 2/5 of the work week wasted and Steve Pavlina’s score of 1.5 hours of real work a day.

These are scary numbers if you’re management seeing that you’re spending on hourly wages that are actually slack time. AOL says time goes to surfing the Internet, Microsoft says, it’s on worthless meetings. By personal experience, I might have to say amen to Microsoft for that one.

Still, there are those who put in long work hours. A killer if you’d ask me. And here’s a very alarming point:

A poll conducted for Staples found that almost half of the small-business managers in the United States work during time meant for family, while 49 percent make business calls and check e-mail messages while behind the wheel; 18 percent read e-mail messages in the bathroom.

I can attest to such working conditions since I practically went through that situation. While working as a marketing officer, I was practically working in my sleep, during meal time, while driving and even on my personal time with my girl. Needless to say my morale got too low and my health suffered a lot.

Fusion Factor founder Bob Kustka has this to say, “The longer you work, the less efficient you are… [Working energy, like physical energy,] is best used in spurts where we work hard on a few focused activities and then take a brief respite.”

Because of these factors, some workplaces have started to shift from a work per hour scheme to ROWE – Results Only Work Environment. It’s a paradigm where “workers can come in at four or leave at noon, or head for the movies in the middle of the day, or not even show up at all.” It’s the results that count.

I’ve met a lot of business owners and managers who would swear against this scheme since they’re just too scared of wasting money on hourly wages that workers don’t spend time working at all.

One solution to this kind of mentality in order to fit a ROWE is to shift the value of wages to the value of results. This way, owners and managers can stop fussing about hourly wages. In practicality, it’s what they’re paying for. It’s not just the time. It’s the skill, the thinking, and the effort behind the output that deserve value and not just the time. And in the end, it’s the results that the company gets to use anyway.

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