With the ability to reach anyone anytime through smart phones, tablets, etc. — the traditional (9 to 5) 40-hour work week is becoming a bit of an endangered species.
Notice how I chose the word endangered rather than extinct? That’s because there’s still time to regain control of the 40-hour work week (or something like it).
And why would we want to do that? If people are happy and willing to work into the wee hours to write and respond to emails that’s great for employee productivity — right?
Maybe not. So we put the question out to Susan Mazza and Sharlyn Lauby and asked them to weigh in. Here’s what they had to say.
Susan Mazza, Halogen TalentSpace blog contributor, co-author of The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Revolution of Leadership One Person at a Time, and award-winning blogger at RandomActsofLeadership.com, says:
“The expectation of 24/7 availability and over emphasis on maximizing efficiency have distracted us from the real point of improving productivity which is to optimize the effectiveness of our most valuable resource: our people.”
But is 9 to 5 the be all and end all? Maybe or maybe not according to Mazza:
“Unless leaders recognize that productivity cannot be measured by units of time, but rather the results of that investment, they will fail to see the importance of setting boundaries and practices that care for their people.”
When we asked Sharlyn Lauby, President, ITM Group Inc. and blogger at HR Bartender, to share her thoughts she said it’s important for organizations to focus on helping employees find their most productive selves:
“Instead of mandating a XX-hour workweek or having policies about only sending emails between certain hours, let employees find out the best way for them to work. That’s what will make them the most healthy and productive. That’s what will increase the company bottom-line.”
Setting boundaries around employee productivity is a good thing
So how do some organizations value overtime and work hours? A recent post on Businessweek.com gives a couple of interesting examples.
- At Vynamic, a 75-employee health-care management consultancy, employees have been instructed to not send e-mails on the weekends or between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The Zmail policy, (i.e., yes, as in catching a few “Zs”), came in response to employee surveys that showed staff were stressed out. When someone slips an e-mail in minutes before the 10 p.m. cutoff, it’s dubbed a “Z bomb” and internally frowned upon.
- At Menlo Innovations, offices are dark and locked by 6 p.m. Employees aren’t allowed to work from home. “Tired programmers start putting in lots of bugs,” explains chief executive, Rich Sheridan.” He says that the cost of software glitches can exceed the benefits of overtime. According to Sheridan, the result of the 6 p.m. lockdown? “A productive 8-hour day, happy staff and work that pleases clients.”
Employee productivity is an inner game
Is the 9-to-5 life for everyone? Of course not.
Productivity is an inner game, says Mazza. “You have to know what works for you, and be willing to set the boundaries and instill the practices you need to optimize your energy, your focus and your creativity.”
Your turn: Do you have any best practices you’d like to share about how your company is driving greater productivity? Please share in the comments section below.