Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Productivity Verses Hours

A while back I wrote about management's tendency to ask staff to work extra hours. Occasionally people need to work extra hours, but effective leaders should always be mindful of burning them out.

Another issue with people working extra hours is the question of how productive they actually are with their time. My experience suggests that productivity may be inversely proportional to the number of hours a person works. I'm not just talking about productivity as work done per hour; I'm talking about work per associate.

Some managers measure productivity, commitment and loyalty by how many hours their associates work. This drives associates to put in more time in the office, but doesn't drive them to do more work. It may actually make them resentful of the time they spend in the office. I've worked with plenty of 60-hour people. What tends to distinguish them is the amount of time they spend in the halls talking to people or shopping on-line. They do this openly and with impunity as if to say, "I'm allowed; I'm always in the office."

I find these 60-hour people barely get their 40-hour job done. Often they need to put in 80-hour weeks to catch up during crunch time. Along the way they can be a distraction to the people around them. But, they sure can impress their management.

On the other hand, I've had a couple of associates who needed to reduce their time to 32 hours a week. This reduction in hours always comes with in a reduction in pay, but I still take a risk of lost productivity. It's practically impossible to make up the lost 8 hours by hiring someone.

On the up side for me, I've always found that my 32-hour people work steady and hard while they are at the office. Sometimes they even work overtime (but I discourage it). I'm confident that my 32-hour people do more work than most 60-hour people I've known. They even do more work than many of my 40-hour people.

Now I wouldn't go as far as to suggest reducing everyone's hours, but you should be open to supporting associates who have a need. And, I would caution managers against setting a tone that values hours in the office. This might even mean that the effective leader sets the example and goes home early on occasion. Now that's novel.

1 comment:

Johanna Rothman said...

One of the things I do when I take over managing a project in trouble is to make people work only 40 hours per week. Everyone. That way people work during work and do the other stuff at home.