Working your hours

A new book says companies should trust their employees to choose their hours as long as they come up with the results. Workingmums investigates.

Ever thought you could work better if you were rewarded on the basis of what you actually produced rather than the hours you put in? Well, a book just published in August tells you not only how that can be done, but on why it is necessary to change the way we work so that we don’t become burnt-out wrecks.

Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, is based on the Results Orientated Work Environment which has been implemented in several firms including Best Buy, the US’ largest speciality retailer of consumer electronics.
Ressler is a human resources executive and says she had been alarmed at the number of women who were accepting reduced pay and status in order to get the flexibility they needed to balance work and family life. She said she saw many being paid part-time hours, but ending up doing full-time jobs. "If we keep moving the way we’re moving," she told Time magazine, "women are going to be in the same place we were 40 years ago."
The book describes how ROWE levels the office playing field and treats workers as adults. “In a ROWE,” the book says, “people do whatever they want whenever they want as long as the work gets done. In the park, in a coffee shop, in the shower. At midnight or 3am or on Sunday. Whenever and wherever.” Ressler and Thompson describe traditional office environments as “dysfunctional” and in need of a complete overhaul. They say ROWE makes people more motivated and productive and turns work into “something you do” rather than “somewhere you go”.
They write:“Every day people go to work and waste their time, their company’s time, and their lives in a system based on assumptions—about how work gets done and what work looks like—that don’t apply in today’s global, 24/7 economy.
“We go to work and give everything we have and are treated like we’re children who, if left unattended, will steal candy.
“We go to work and watch someone who isn’t very good at their job get promoted because they got in earlier and stayed later than anyone else.
“We go to work and sit through overlong, overstaffed meetings to talk about the next overlong, overstaffed meeting.”
Ressler and Thompson say they are offering “not a new way of working, but a new way of living”.
The idea for ROWE started in 2001 when a Best Buy executive was looking at ways of making the company be the employer of choice for talented potential employees. Something radical was needed. The company conducted an internal survey and found most staff said what they really wanted was for managers to trust them with their time. Ressler, just 24 at the time, was brought in to see how the survey’s results could be implemented in practice.
Ressler helped set up the Alternative Work Program, a pilot programme which allowed all employees to pick a form of flexible working which suited them and stick with it. It was then up to their department to make it work. Ressler says people were more productive and positive as a result. Thompson started to work with Ressler in 2003 to follow up on the pilot programme and see how it could be extended and eventually they hit on ROWE. There were some disagreements among managers about it, but Ressler and Thompson say it has resulted in a 35% increase in productivity and low numbers of staff leaving their jobs voluntarily – in some divisions the reduction has been as much as 90%, they say. The number of dismissals went up, however, for those who did not meet productivity targets.
A reviewer on Amazon comments that the book alerted him to “the quantity of "sludge" that circulates around most companies I’ve worked at; people equating "time in the office, arrive early, stay late" with "value provided to the company", and the sort of derogatory remarks made if people arrive mid morning, or leave early.” He adds that although “people who turn in the hours but add no value to the company get exposed quickly by a "ROWE" working environment…people who can do a good job and deliver results around their personal commitments outside of work appear to enjoy the freedom it gives”.
For more information, read some of the book here

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