Tech & Work

Physical presence does not equal productivity

I've always been one of those people who like to get to the office early and get all my work done before I leave or take a break. That sounds like bragging but it isn't.

The problem is, if I have a finite amount of work to complete, I usually get it done early with an hour or so to spare at the end of the day. Yet, because of the traditional 9-to-5 mindset of corporate America, I can't just pick up and go home. I have to stay at work until the "official" time to leave. I deeply resent losing that hour or so in limbo-land.

And I'm not saying that I'm unwilling to work ahead. I do that all the time. There are just some duties that have to wait for someone else's input before they can be taken further.

I've tried pacing myself but my work speed feels pretty much ingrained in me at this point.

If I were to go ahead and leave early, my colleagues and boss would get the erroneous impression that I was shirking my job. For some reason, the person who stays late, even it it's caused by his using two hours in the middle of the day for personal web surfing, is seen as a harder worker.

So you can imagine how I felt when I read about a new work-environment experiment at Best Buy, the electronics retailer. The experiment, called ROWE (Results-Only Environment) seeks to transform a culture once known for long hours and tough bosses.

An article in Business Week says that Best Buy is seeking to "demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity." Bravo!

The article points out that tech companies have been going this route for several years.

"At IBM, 40% of the workforce has no official office; at AT&T, a third of managers are untethered. Sun Microsystems Inc. calculates that it's saved $400 million over six years in real estate costs by allowing nearly half of all employees to work anywhere they want."

Such a system seems to be working so far for Best Buy. Their spokesperson says that average voluntary turnover has fallen drastically. Also, according to the Gallup Organization, which audits corporate cultures, employee engagement is way up too.

Here's to hoping it catches on!

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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