“Man, what a hard-worker!!!”
Isn’t that a common exclamation that we make when we see someone spending long hours in office? Yes, it is. Is it really justified? Maybe it was, in the previous generation. Is productivity proportional to the time in office? No, definitely not!
The office-goers world was totally different some twenty years ago. It was a world of papers, files and folders, stacked in wall length cabinets. Smell of stationery was strongly associated with clerks and their ledgers. People get into office at 9 AM, work, lunch break at the stroke of noon, work again, leave for home at 5 PM. Longer hours meant over-time and additional pay. Time table was in place and everyone was happy.
Are we anywhere in the vicinity of traditional office setup today? Another big no! Lets face it! We are far away, miles and miles away. Many offices have global presence today. People work at odd hours with colleagues across the globe. Every bit of existing information is digitized and the new ones are computerized from the start. Offices without computers are offices of stone age. Scheduled work is no more a reality, surprise work is. In the pace that we are currently in, it is the sandwich generation, us, who have seen the past and playing in the present suffer the transition. We are loaded with expectations from our superiors whose mindset is locked back in a different world but are forced to perform in the generation next. Result is a mob of confused professionals, clueless, directional-less and tired, physically, mentally, literally!
Sam is known for his dedication to work. He slogs long hours at office to accomplish his task. Pam is dedicated too. She completes her task in half the time and heads home. Who would we claim efficent? Someone who works longer or someone who does it faster? Assuming the quality of food is great in both, which restaurant would you prefer? One with longer or shorter service time? Productivity at office is sometimes unfortunately and wrongly assessed based on the duration of toil than the results achieved. Today’s world need more smart-workers than hard-workers. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, we’ll have to invent innovations.
Sam has his reasons. As a bachelor in a mansion, office gives him plush conditions to hang around, with cool colleagues as friends and dinner allowances too. Who cares what he does in office after hours? Why would he want to head elsewhere post working hours if his convenience was going to earn him some “hard-working” credits from his bosses? Sam, of course, would complete his task at his pace and it wouldn’t be right to condemn him so long as the job is done on schedule. But why should Sam’s style become a comparison factor to condemn Pam who does her job within office hours and head back to attend to other priorities in her life. How fair can that be? Little does Sam realize that when his life-style changes to accommodate things other than work, he would be forced to follow Pam’s policy, whereas his superiors would look at his sudden change in timings as performance slow down.
Mobile offices and flexible work life has become more of a necessity than a luxury today. Why spend hours on the road fighting traffic and pollution when the same work can be done in the comfort of one’s home? Energy and time saved thus can be utilized in the actual work that is to be done. From an office’s perspective, employees working from home save the company’s electricity and amenities charges. Win-win situation! Agreed, self discipline and dedication is required on the part of the employees and that would be come upon invariably or he wouldn’t be able reach the targets expected out of him to account for his paycheck.
John’s dad calls him a slacker. He goes to work late, leaves early and sometimes works from home. His monitor is never on without a social networking site or a chat window minimized. But his manager at work has great regard for him. He is a top performer at work and his appraisal charts are always ahead of average. Is John a magician really? Maybe he is, a magician who knows to manage time. John has his philosophy. He is more productive when his mind is less stressed. He allows himself the time to unwind to ease his mind. A relaxed mind gears up and rises faster to challenges and performs better. When performance increases, time to achieve results decreases leaving him with time again to unwind and the cycle goes on. John is happy and his boss is happy. Win-win situation again!
John’s philosophy is still unfathomable to Joe who burns his day at office. Joe stresses himself out with long working hours, commits mistakes because of his over-worked brain, puts more effort on re-work which calls for more mistakes again, thereby increasing more time at work and so on till he gives it all up. Poor Joe either calls himself dumb or cultivates jealousy and blames John’s manager for favoritism. More the number of Joes, more is the disharmony at work, pulling down productivity even further. Despite knowing all this, it is a sad truth that many offices still prefer Joes to Johns.
Work-life balance has become a hard to buy commodity. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Nobody want dull Jacks to work for them and a dull Jack wouldn’t definitely want to work to earn a living when there is no living to do. With ever-changing life-style and work-style, isn’t it not time yet for amendments and refinements? Shouldn’t corporates wake up to the truth of the day and acknowledge employees for what they are and what they do as against old prejudices or false charades? The consolation is that many organizations are coming out of their slumbers now and taking steps to work out methodologies that helps them grow bigger and bigger keeping their employees’ life better and better. If such practices rub onto to everyone as well, world would not only become a better place to live but a better place to work as well.
P.S: Written for a business magazine.