The WHAT not the when or where of work

CIPD/ACAS have produced a report on the workplace trends for 2015  (summarised in this handy infographic). There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there, but one point that stood out to me straightaway  is their advice that employers should:

focus on output rather than ‘when’ and ‘where’

That is, why not make the work itself the focus of management, and not the hours put in or the location?

Many managers assume that if we allow workers to choose their own hours, people would slack off and do the minimum possible. But I don’t believe that is true. If workers are given responsibility to choose their own start and finish times – rather than being kept to an one-size-fits-all 9 to 5 rule – they will end up working regular hours. People like regularity, but they don’t necessary like being told where to be or when. If managers stopped treating work like school and allowed employees the flexibility to work how and where suits them best, those employees would quite likely respond by doing just that: their best work.

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones wrote in the Harvard Business Review in May 2013 on ‘Creating the Best Workplace on Earth‘ and one of their 6 imperatives was that people aren’t hindered by ‘stupid rules’. In many jobs established working hours are a necessary thing, but we could say that in a lot of office work, and many jobs in a city like London, the conventional workplace rules around attendance are quite outdated now we have the means to work anywhere and anytime.

Focusing on ‘output’ is how a company like Netflix can allow their people to take as much holiday as they like, or Automattic’s staff to work wherever they want.

If we could move away from the ‘when’ and ‘where’ of work we could do a lot more than satisfy workers. We could spread out commuting patterns and do away with crazy rush hours in cities where transport infrastructure is creaking under the strain of commuters moving altogether twice a day. We could do away with a long hours culture based on presenteeism in the workplace, and provide more time for workers to spend with their families or communities.

 

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