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If You're Always Working, You're Never Working Well

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the brain-gets-mushy dept.

Businesses 135

An anonymous reader writes: Hard work is almost an axiom in the U.S. — office culture continually rewards people who are at their desks early and stay late, regardless of actual performance. Over the past decade, it's encroached even further into workers' private lives with the advent of smartphones. An article at the Harvard Business Review takes issue with the idea that more work is always better: "When we accept this new and permanent ambient workload — checking business news in bed or responding to coworkers' emails during breakfast — we may believe that we are dedicated, tireless workers. But, actually, we're mostly just getting the small, easy things done. Being busy does not equate to being effective. ... And let's not forget about ambient play, which often distracts us from accomplishing our most important tasks. Facebook and Twitter report that their sites are most active during office hours. After all, the employee who's required to respond to her boss on Sunday morning will think nothing of responding to friends on Wednesday afternoon. And research shows (PDF) that these digital derailments are costly: it's not only the minutes lost responding to a tweet but also the time and energy required to 'reenter' the original task." How do we shift business culture to reward effective work more than the appearance of work?

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yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588431)

nice

If you *lourve* your job ... (4, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588651)

All TFA talks about is the hours of working, but there are more aspect of work than mere number of hours

If one really enjoys the work one will not treat the work as _work_, but rather something that is FUN - - EXCITING - - REJUVENATING

I have been in the tech field for decades and I keep seeing people who take the task they are assigned with as challenges that they want to overcome getting the job done faster, with more zeal, and produce much better code than those who take whatever they are being tasked with as "burden"

It's not the hour that you put in, it's the fun-quotient that will ultimately determine whether you will excel in the job you are in, or otherwise

Re:If you *lourve* your job ... (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588781)

and the long hours lead to more errors.

names are removed

I have proof I know this one programer who says at times he needs to put in long days at X that makes X. And I have been finding lot's of small bugs / things that are not working right / don't work they way they should in mode Y.

The thing is I'm not in QA or even work at X but this what you get with long hours more errors.

Re:If you *lourve* your job ... (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589179)

office culture continually rewards people who are at their desks early and stay late

[citation needed]

Re:If you *lourve* your job ... (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589895)

If one really enjoys the work one will not treat the work as _work_, but rather something that is FUN - - EXCITING - - REJUVENATING

But it's not. An exhausting activity doesn't become any less exhausting just because you enjoy it. You need downtime for maintenance, no matter how much you might not want it.

I have been in the tech field for decades and I keep seeing people who take the task they are assigned with as challenges that they want to overcome getting the job done faster, with more zeal, and produce much better code than those who take whatever they are being tasked with as "burden"

From office politics to micromanagement to inane performance metrics to managers who make it perfectly clear that they see themselves as feudal lords running their little fiefdoms for the enlargement of their egos and couldn't care less about efficiency, a modern workplace is set up precisely in such a way as to discourage professional pride and encourage cynical resignation. That's not particularly surprising, since the people who designed it had no better models of organization to draw from than said feudal fiefdoms, which were not set up for efficiency but for suppressing peasants by crushing their spirits.

Some people can shrug off the lingering stink of dung ages and excel, some can't. But something is very wrong when it takes an exceptional person just to not view your primary means of accomplishing something as soul-crushing drudgery. Most jobs aren't inherently that bad, and most people aren't really content to merely consume. Even places like 4chan spin around creativity, crude as it might be. So why does the average peon dream of winning it big and forever escaping the need to work for a living?

Hierarchy has been the primary source of inefficiency everywhere I've ever worked. But how to design an organization that can coordinate itself without hierarchy, especially given that it's made of humans used to playing games of master and servant rather than cooperating for common goals? Now that is the trillion-dollar question.

Re:If you *lourve* your job ... (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about a month and a half ago | (#47590321)

But how to design an organization that can coordinate itself without hierarchy, especially given that it's made of humans used to playing games of master and servant rather than cooperating for common goals? Now that is the trillion-dollar question.

shotguns and anal sodomy. not necessarily in that order.

Office Turd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589935)

You may not realize it or even care, but you're one of the turds at work that everyone hates. You make everyone's day longer even if you don't goad people into actually staying longer. Say, you wouldn't be a manager who gets extra credit and bonuses by making your underlings work longer hours and weekend while you go home on time and enjoy a nice BBQ'd steak with the family?

required to respond to her boss on Sunday morning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588433)

I would say that such an employee deserves to get paid for that time, at overtime rates. Even for salaried employees, although that gets messy I imagine.

Sabbath, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588437)

Our employees take a day off each week. No email, no ambient tasks. Shut it all down for 24 hours.

On the flipside, unless you're our social media manager, fb and twitter are off limits at work.

Re:Sabbath, anyone? (0)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588509)

Yes, but to be fair, your imaginary friend is filling in for you and picking up the slack.

Independence day India (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588441)

Sharing one of the best collection of Independence day of India 2014

Independence Day India [blogspot.in]
Happy Independence Day India [blogspot.in]
Independence Day SMS [blogspot.in]
Independence Day Speech [blogspot.in]
Independence Day Speech Hindi [blogspot.in]
Independence Day Message [blogspot.in]
Independence Day Message Hindi [blogspot.in]

So WHAT ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588447)

Really dedicated people like scientists - never stops working. They work even making love.

partly as a result, work culture is also haphazard (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588461)

One of the bigger cultural differences I've found working in both the U.S. and Scandinavia is that American meetings are long, unpredictably scheduled, and really disorganized. A 10am meeting might really get down to business by 10:15 if you're lucky, maybe 10:30, and probably won't end on time at 11:00am. Nobody will have distributed any material to consult ahead of time, or even a proper meeting agenda for that matter, and as a result people don't come particularly prepared, and a ton of time is wasted. Since there is no real agenda, who needs to be at the meeting also hasn't been very carefully decided, so a bunch of people are just in case, and they spend half the time on Facebook or email while irrelevant parts of the meeting happen. The assumption seems to just be that just half-assing the whole thing is the best way to go...

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588517)

>The assumption seems to just be that just half-assing the whole thing is the best way to go...

But that is the American way! It is the spirit of America!

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (2)

war4peace (1628283) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588571)

One of the bigger cultural differences I've found working in both the U.S. and Scandinavia is that American meetings are long, unpredictably scheduled, and really disorganized.

They're also intentionally made that way. Therefore, nobody is really accountable and nobody really has to do anything about whatever problem is discussed, and they can all blame it on the "didn't quite get what was supposed to be done" thing.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (1)

ruir (2709173) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588613)

Hey... I have found out my colleagues are American and I make Scandinavian complaints ;)

partly as a result, work culture is also haphazard (5, Interesting)

justaguy516 (712036) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588615)

As it happens, Americans are too nice about their own time. If a meeting is more than 5 minutes overdue Scandinavians (and Germans) will brusquely get up and leave. Americans sit around and chew the fat waiting for somebody else to make the move.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588911)

As a system designer and programmer, my work is fairly creative in that I have to take a complex problem is simplify it into something that can be cleanly programmed. I require a lot of down time during the day to subconsciously maul over my work. 5 minutes means nothing to me. In an 8 hour day, I only get about 1-2 hours of real programming work done. The rest of the time I'm relaxing my mind, albeit in a very specific way.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (2)

creimer (824291) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589129)

My time limit is 15 minutes. If no one shows up or I'm not informed that people will be late, I'll leave. I startled many recruiters and hiring managers by walking out on them if an interview doesn't start promptly. Since my Rolodex contain the names of 600+ recruiters, my time is too valuable to waste.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588713)

One of the bigger cultural differences I've found working in both the U.S. and Scandinavia is that American meetings are long, unpredictably scheduled, and really disorganized

One quite pathetic situation/problem in large organisations is that people can be seen to be more effective the more "face time" you have with them. Thus some long meetings exist for the sole purpose of spending time with the people with the power to promote. Apparently it then snowballs into the "company culture".
Since I'm now in a small enough place that everyone has no choice other than spending time with everyone else I can avoid that stupidity but I still see it on occasion when the company I work for takes jobs from some large multi-nationals - I get to see a little window into full-on Dilbert territory. Things like meetings where eight people from the other company turn up but only two speak, who get left floundering with no backup when out of their depth despite all the others there.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588747)

You forgot to mention that no one takes meeting minutes or notes. Thus any decisions made are lost two steps out the door. Which in turn requires future follow up meetings to re-decide/debate the same issues. I've seen heated discussions over issues that were already resolved in a prior meeting.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (5, Insightful)

presidenteloco (659168) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588815)

Some people use this to advantage to deliberately re-fight the same debate that they lost last time.
That's one reason minutes, with clearly marked decisions and actions are so important.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589635)

Some people use this to advantage to deliberately re-fight the same debate that they lost last time.

Pro-tip: The best way to win, is to hold another meeting to rehash the issues, and don't invite the people that disagreed with you last time.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (4, Interesting)

Shinobi (19308) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588751)

That's because here in Sweden at least, we learned from childhood to work in groups, including presentations etc, though that has changed a lot now that we've adopted more international methods. Aka, downgraded our education...

For example, when I was a kid, we had student councils in school, from age 10, where each class has 1 or 2 representatives, who then report to the rest of the class at the weekly class meetings etc. It was also a good way to teach students about democracy.

As for the difference between US and nordic culture in regards to meetings, time keeping etc, I do notice that a lot in my freelancing. US clients are more likely to call at completely idiotic times(like calling at 19:00 their local time, meaning it's middle of the night/really early morning for me), and as you say, less coordinated with materials at meetings etc.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588841)

As for the difference between US and nordic culture in regards to meetings, time keeping etc, I do notice that a lot in my freelancing. US clients are more likely to call at completely idiotic times(like calling at 19:00 their local time, meaning it's middle of the night/really early morning for me)

If you are not prepared to work at all hours, your US clients will find someone who is. I am also a European freelancing for American clients, and I answer calls whatever hour of the day or night they decide to call, and I don't complain about it either. I can always just go back to sleep afterwards if it is not particularly urgent.

Business is global now. That necessitates 24/7 availability.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (1)

Shinobi (19308) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589847)

Working like that only leads to health problems(both bodily and mentally), and only helps to foster a retarded culture.

It also leads to more errors and lower quality. And the quality of your work matters more.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (1)

John Bokma (834313) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589983)

Exactly. Moreover, clients who insist on 24/7 availability etc. are also the ones that drop you as soon as they've found someone who claims to be available 24/8 and/or asks a few cents less. Rent-a-coder et al are good places to find such clients (can you write a facebook clone, the budget is 200 USD...).

Heh, slave to the rythm.... (1)

John Bokma (834313) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589977)

I work with clients in /several/ countries besides the USA (e.g. Japan, The Netherlands, UK). Call? They can email me. And if it's urgent, they should've emailed me earlier. Of course there are exceptions, but those are extremely rare, because I make clear that the preferred way to reach me is email, and that I don't want to use Skype (or similar). And it really works. I can't be standby 24/7 because that would affect my work, and so far there hasn't been any need for this.

With one project they hired a new guy. He asked me (on Skype) "how do I edit a file on Linux" (really!). So I replied "vi, otherwise just transfer the file and edit it locally". He picked vi but .... he insisted that I was going to teach him how to use vi via Skype. No thanks, even if I could declare my hours. In general, my experience with Skype has been that the other side sets a time, and when I am on Skype, on time, they always have to finish some business first. If I can hold on for a while (20+ minutes). One of the reasons I don't do Skype anymore. The other one is that some customers tried to use it to get a real time quote. I need time to think about such things (most things, in general), so no. Besides brain storming via email also gives a nice transcript (which I am more than happy to turn into a formal document).

Re:Heh, slave to the rythm.... (1)

Shinobi (19308) | about a month and a half ago | (#47590037)

Yeah, I have clients worldwide too, comes with being a specialist. And yes, I do prefer email. However, sometimes calls are preferable, such as conference calls. But I make a point of having everyone be on time, if someone is late, I start the meeting without them. I also keep a detailed plan for the meeting, and strict minutes of it.

The worst thing is when you work with other software developers who don't keep track of such things, or even deliberately try to sabotage such things. There's an idiotic macho culture among many software developers in regards to Agile, working hours that makes them look retarded and gullible, and if you propose that they form a guild or union to avoid being taken advantage of, they prefer being taken advantage of. And that's far more prevalent in north american culture: "Hey, big employer, feel free to take advantage of me, all I will do is whine anonymously, and even then I'll just help maintain a situation where you can keep taking advantage of me"

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47590063)

Of course Americans are more prone to call at idiotic times. Why would a nordic person call in the middle of your night? It's the middle of their night, too.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47590067)

Yeah, but let's face it. You.. are... so... fucking... dull.

*shrug* (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588769)

I'll just establish this new policy:

During off hours you are allowed to intermix business and personal communication, whereas during business hours you are not allowed to use facebook or any of the other popular sites.

That way I get both the focus during working hours and the extra effort during off hours.

Those who refuse to respond to business communication during off hours will be replaced by those who are more dedicated. Same for those who are caught facebooking during business hours.

Next.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (3, Insightful)

matbury (3458347) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588811)

I think one contributing factor is the commonly conceived idea of management: Managers tell people what to do and when to do it. They rate their own success at managing and workplace status more by how well others comply with their demands than from their teams' or departments' productivity (that's an abstract number on a report somewhere). Lots of workers are unhappy about the way their managers treat them and want to leave at the earliest possible opportunity, unless of course, they like their colleagues (Should we reward colleagues more for workers' productivity?) When managers can drop the "command and control is good" mindset, then they're ready to do something more constructive, egalitarian, and ultimately productive... you know, like show some support and leadership.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (1)

creimer (824291) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589165)

My new job is like that. A 90-minute training session goes on for three hours. Most of the trainers are working from home as all the new contractors are working on site. They're comfortable with kids and dogs running underfoot at home. Like most tech companies where everyone has worked for a long time (eight or more years), there's no documentation and key work knowledge are locked away in people's head.

Re: partly as a result, work culture is also hapha (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589175)

I guess that's why Scandinavia's economy has accomplished so much more than America's over the last 70 years, eh? All those inventions, accomplishments, the fact that their culture basically dominates the planet, while the US is basically a backwater - it all boils down to meeting discipline and time management. Thanks for the tip.

Re: partly as a result, work culture is also hapha (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589643)

He didn't say that, but either way you'd have to scale any accomplishments by population at least if you really want to compare.

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589589)

Testify Brother (or Sister) Not handling Action Points properly is another problem for a lot of people

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (1)

pipingguy (566974) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589637)

I always use my full ass at these type of meetings, none of that half-ass stuff for me.

Mark (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588477)

Hard working Americans, are always the ones the get fired first for not working at all in Europe...

Re:Mark (-1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588505)

Maybe if they do the work of throwing in extraneous commas they'll, fare, better?

Bizarro world? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588493)

"Hard work is almost an axiom in the U.S."

How did you get here from Bizarro US?

Re:Bizarro world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588557)

Believe it or not, it's true.

http://www.theguardian.com/money/us-money-blog/2014/jul/14/overtime-update-american-workers-report

The common perception may be that US workers are lazy, and get too much vacation, moreso when they're unionized or government employees, but the thing is, that's the narrative, not the reality.

Yet this may be worse for the economy.

Re:Bizarro world? (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588565)

You are confusing being at work a lot with working hard.

Re:Bizarro world? (5, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588741)

Australians are generally lazy but get a reputation for being hard workers overseas due to the way we deal with it. The idea is to get into the work as quickly as possibly so we can get it done and bugger off home early :)

Re:Bizarro world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589003)

Nope, you're missing the point of the whole issue.

"office culture continually rewards people who are at their desks early and stay late, regardless of actual performance"

It's quite clearly stated at the beginning, did you miss it?

Re:Bizarro world? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589621)

Nopoe. I'm pointing out that the submitter misconstured the article when he said "Hard work" rather than "Lots of hours", and then you missed that point.

Re:Bizarro world? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589395)

The common perception may be that US workers are lazy, and get too much vacation

Are you certain you're not thinking of pretty much any EU country? I believe six weeks' vacation is the standard over there. US, it's two weeks if you're lucky, and its not entirely uncommon to get no vacation at all (aside from major holidays) the first year of employment.

It's a generally accepted fact that the U.S. has the most stringent hours, fewest vacations, and highest stress of any first world country. (except for perhaps, China)

Weekend email (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588545)

I'm going to email these links to my boss & coworkers right away! Even though it's the weekend, I think they really need to see this immediately :)

But if you start rewarding efficient work... (3, Insightful)

Torp (199297) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588549)

... what will happen to those incapable of efficient work? :)
At least this way they can do unpaid overtime and convince their boss - who's also incapable of efficient work - that they're useful...

Re:But if you start rewarding efficient work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589385)

Depends how you define efficient work

If efficient work is having meetings all day long, dealing with lots and lots of pointless emails and no even reading or taking care of those that matter, being good at passing up your responsibilities and duties to other people, shifting the blame game, corporative speaking, being one of the boys and playing the ball, carving a position for yourself to solve problems created by you in the first place and them shifting more executive personal under you to deal with those problems that would not exist in the first place it if wasn't because you created them in the firs place, taken credit for yourself...
Meanwhile there are the inefficient workers trying to do their work properly wile following wonkier management schemes that keep changing (because they clearly don't work or are badly implemented) being dragged in more and more red tape finding more obstacles, delays and unresponsive departments trying to achieve an unrealistic always rising target

Then you are welcome to my place of work

PS. There is no need to explain how to rise in such environment, if you are an efficient worker as per defined above, you do know how to rise.

Sad thing is in the west this is becoming the norm, welcome to the corporative dream

No thought required (5, Interesting)

Thiarna (111890) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588555)

I find in most business cultures I've had contact with that actually spending time to think about a problem is actively discouraged. Problems get bounced from one person to the next, and the actual work performed by any one person on something is so limited that often no-one understands the full problem. The always connected culture described in the article is part of the problem, but more fundamentally it is that there is such the constant stream of email with so little thought put into it

Re:No thought required (4, Insightful)

Irate Engineer (2814313) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588707)

Exactly this. The culture that I have often seen (particularly in publicly traded companies) is that to actively think about and research a problem and kill it for once and for all is always perceived as too expensive and is frowned upon.

It's apparently far cheaper to just muddle along with a problem for years and years and years. Or at least until the company tanks.

In turn, this culture is a motivation killer, as initially ambitious employees will have their proposals shot down again and again, and so they either leave or just shrug their shoulders resignedly and Facebook all day, just keeping the illusion of productivity alive.

Re:No thought required (2)

rnturn (11092) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588939)

``It's apparently far cheaper to just muddle along with a problem for years and years and years. Or at least until the company tanks.''

Or the people who constantly point out the problem leave the company in frustration. No more complaints... no more problem. It'll be a while before the replacement hires (if there actually are any) re-discover the problem and begin complaining about it.

Effective vs. Efficient (1, Interesting)

Quakeulf (2650167) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588567)

The need has come to educate yourselves: http://www.dailyblogtips.com/e... [dailyblogtips.com]

The appearance of being busy (5, Insightful)

TheRealSteveDallas (2505582) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588609)

People learn what works. Secretly producing all of your required output in 5 hours then adding some extra on top of it - then going fishing for four days is a recipe for dismissal. Productivity measurement equates to attendance and attitude and workers have adapted by creating a steady stream of noise. You show up at the meetings, respond to email and participate in discussions. You smile. You go all-in any time of day for some trivial shit that you could have let go except demonstrate activity. You are a value to the team. It does not matter that you haven't actually accomplished anything meaningful.

Re:The appearance of being busy (1)

ruir (2709173) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588627)

So true. The places where I have dismissed trivial things, things others were there to do it, (i.e sales guys), or things that possibly should not be done (instead of fixing malfunctions, being at the phone hearing complaints about the malfunction), I managed to do the work that needed to be done, and that my predecessors had not the time to do. Nevertheless, I was not really viewed as a team player. Or rather, they knew I was effective and practical, but did not enjoy I did do their work as my predecessors.

Re:The appearance of being busy (1)

Livius (318358) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588845)

That works, and works very well in general, but like anything it can be pushed too far. Where I work there's a growing realization that the people putting in ridiculous overtime are doing so because they are in fact hopelessly ineffective at their jobs, so their 70 or 80 hours a week is really the equivalent of 10 or 15 hours work from someone actually qualified. Now everyone working late is under scrutiny.

Re:The appearance of being busy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589049)

Good. We don't want the unproductive ones working long hours. We want the productive ones working long hours. Then we really have a leg-up on the competition!

Re:The appearance of being busy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589537)

Unless you're talking about mindless labor, long hours for more than a week or two will make anyone unproductive. This is where the notion of "negative" work comes from. Long hours will make someone so unproductive that time worked will cause negative value.

Re:The appearance of being busy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589647)

... the people putting in ridiculous overtime are doing so because they are in fact hopelessly ineffective at their jobs, so their 70 or 80 hours a week is really the equivalent of 10 or 15 hours work from someone actually qualified.

I take exception to your generality. I sometimes work 70 and 80 hour weeks, but as I am the only one doing the work, there is not an alternative - unless it is to lose the contract, and the 38-million plus the it brings in each year.

Re:The appearance of being busy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589683)

That works, and works very well in general, but like anything it can be pushed too far. Where I work there's a growing realization that the people putting in ridiculous overtime are doing so because they are in fact hopelessly ineffective at their jobs, so their 70 or 80 hours a week is really the equivalent of 10 or 15 hours work from someone actually qualified. Now everyone working late is under scrutiny.

Yup, a year or so back when my department had to lay a few people off the ones who went were those who had been always working longer hours yet repeatedly blowing deadlines. For some it wasn't clear if they were merely incompetent or if they were trying to milk the jobs and doing so incompetently.

Re:The appearance of being busy (1)

anmre (2956771) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589287)

My personal favorite is the enormous headache-inducing excel spreadsheet that somebody has obviously spent way too much time "designing".

American workers were much better post-WWII (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588655)

See for yourself!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

Would you hire Bob?

Re:American workers were much better post-WWII (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588677)

Don't be a Walter!

oney earned != work done (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588685)

used to be of the belief that the money I would earn would be directly proportional to how hard I worked.

However, I learned about 14 years ago that a far, far more significant parameter is how effectively I work. How much time I spend working is almost irrelevant, if what I'm doing is genuinely what the situation is calling for in that moment.

I'm not especially clever, or especially well trained, but currently I earn around $150K for about 2 hours work a week.

Here's how it's done - put a feedback loop into your behaviour so that you assess every hour spent in terms of the genuine value it added to other people. If it didn't really add any value, then look for ways to get that activity out of your life. This might mean tough negotiations at work or even getting a new job, or working for yourself so a bit of courage might be needed to make the change, but it's crucial to prune out unproductive "work" activities where you could just as well have been sitting on the beach for all the value it added.

And if your hour DID add value, how much value did it add to other people's lives? Did you get paid a reasonable sum for the value you added? If not, why not - if the reason is due to other people's inefficiencies, then again - how can you change your situation so that your efforts and skills are not wasted?

It will take time for this feedback loop to work it's magic because it has the effect of slowly tending the garden of your career in a beneficial and fruitful direction, but for myself - my situation was quite radically transformed within 3 years.

simple, move to Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588717)

really, this is brainless

Re:simple, move to Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588913)

It's not a trivial thing to do. You must have a job (and the job market in Europe is somewhat stunted right now) and you must find a place to live in. Can't just pack bags and go.

Academics (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588725)

How do we shift business culture to reward effective work more than the appearance of work?

In the academic world, stop the "publish or perish" mentality.

If it can't be measured, it doesn't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588729)

Quantify "effectiveness". Seriously - how can you reduce something as emphemeral as effectiveness into a stoplight chart or bar chart that middle management can digest in 27 seconds or less?

Number of heads being managed, billable hours, email activity - those are easily quantified and would seem to apply, hence that's what matters.

Peter Principle is killing the work force (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588767)

What did they expect when the keep promoting morons? Or, if you promote a successful technical person to a management position. An engineer may be good at engineering, but that skill does not translate to business administration. I know a lot of smart people who are horrible bosses. Can't we just pay them better and let a qualified manager do managing? Why do we have to make someone a manager in order to pay them better?

up or out rules need to go (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588855)

up or out rules need to go as they lead to that as well.

Re:Peter Principle is killing the work force (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589021)

The issue is that since the 80's, management requires no more advanced skills than many technical tasks. Yet it's still perked more causing distortions that affect productivity. Perhaps calling most of today's managers something like work-group administrator might level things out a bit.

Re:Peter Principle is killing the work force (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589269)

Yes and no. There is the "Dilbert Principle" which the ineffective engineer is promoted so they don't screw things up in engineering (at least what I've heard, it seems to me managers come in all types of skills and effectiveness). Supposably the successful technical person at least knows subject matter even if they are poor managers as compared to the PHB of Dilbert fame.

Re:Peter Principle is killing the work force (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589625)

Unless you're like me and get promoted to a "senior" position where people aren't under me, but I get to work on whatever I feel like. I get to make my own pet projects because they tend to make the other programmers more efficient. Except when the Director gets a state contract and asks the VP to get a resource to design and program a project for a multimillion dollar contract, so my manager quickly throws it my way before getting other departments, like engineering, involved. Lots of hands in the pot makes designing complex systems a pain. Better to have one unified design.

Refuting the Blog (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588805)

OK, so this is an HBR opinion piece only, not their usual quality case studies.

office culture continually rewards people who are at their desks early and stay late, regardless of actual performance

>>>POOR office culture rewards that. Try integrating anonymous peer 360 reviews as a part of annual job performance to find out who is worth a damn and who isn't.

we may believe that we are dedicated, tireless workers

>>>Only truly stupid management believes that. Good management knows each individual has their limits and knows each of limits per individual they manage AND how to maximize that individual's productivity given those limits. Management does this for the benefit of the company, not the individual. See maximizing shareholder value.

After all, the employee who's required to respond to her boss on Sunday morning

>>>No, this is NOT required. See POOR office culture for reference.

Facebook and Twitter report that their sites are most active during office hours [...] will think nothing of responding to friends on Wednesday afternoon, And research shows

>>>That linked research is fascinating. However, it mentions NOTHING of social sites. Author is wrongly extrapolating researchers findings to support his opinion piece.

Some parts of the workforce do rely on constant real-time communication. But others should demand and be given proper breaks from the digital maelstrom

>>>See POOR culture for reference. You have multiple tools for communication ... learn to use each effectively and with common sense guidelines.

Being busy does not equate to being effective.

>>>Common sense.


I really hope HBR does not permit this garbage to continue. Opinion pieces are fine, they need to be quality opinion pieces.

What's Changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588871)

I'll tell you what I'm seeing after 35 years in the US workforce - more slackers. Millennials and what used to be called yuppies coming in late and leaving early. Oh and if you look closely, they are not hunched over their computer getting work done. They are hunched over in front of their computer, but instead of working on something, they are twiddling with their phone on Wastebook. Every now and then, they respond to an email after blabbing about with their friends. That's it.

Christ, what happened to the Strong Work Ethic in this country?

Re:What's Changed (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588923)

My grandfather, a grizzled mountain man who left school at age 12 and migrated north to work in an industrial sector, bringing up a large family on his single salary, seemed to everyone to be the very picture of the strong work ethic. Then he confessed in his old age that for much of his career he had just been sitting around reading the newspaper, getting down to work only when he had to look busy to management. Ditto for his coworkers. You have a rosy view of the past; slacking goes back to long before internet access at work.

Re:What's Changed (3, Insightful)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589147)

The whole nation of the former 'German Democratic Republic' (east Germany, wtf, don't even know how they are called in english, shame on me) was based on this principle.

When you worked you had to fulfill a plan. A pre planned amount of workpieces had to be crafted e.g.

If you could manage to craft so many, you where payed a normal wage, if you crafted more you where 'over plan' and got extra bonuses.

Every year (or every 5) the heads of state responsible for the economy planned a new 5 years ahead plan, including the most mundane parts like simple screws: oh, and we will need 3million metal screws with diameter 3mm.

And every year inspectors would visit factories and 'measure' how quick the average factory worker could do his 'piece of work'.

All the workers looked really busy, but did not produce much. After a week of watching the inspector would write into his book what could be expected from this factory.

That was used to guide the planning committees in case new factories where needed.

Surprisingly the factory was 'over plan' nearly every year ... so the workers could farm in their bonuses.

Very strange feed back cycles, isn't it? The whole economy is planned on faked numbers of lazy workers, who work 'normally' when they work and farm in bonuses because they produce more than the planners actually had planned.
But nevertheless other parts of the economy (like car manufactories) can't produce more because the 'over plan' materials can not be transported ... or well, there is no 'market'! Hey we could use the screws you made! But there is no plan to have a truck ready to bring the screws to the factory ...

Astonishing how well the east german economy worked for nearly 50 years if you consider this, hm ... lying to yourself system?

Re:What's Changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47590143)

One thing I remember about East Germany were painters knocking off around midday in East Berlin one day. Hey guys where are you going? I asked, stuff to paint here but they had no more paint in the planned economy and none would be arriving before the end of the week!

Re:What's Changed (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about a month and a half ago | (#47590313)

If the "whole economy is planned on faked numbers of lazy workers", why was there no slack in the transportation system to move more product than planned so that the transportation workers could farm in *their* bonuses?

Re:What's Changed (1)

rnturn (11092) | about a month and a half ago | (#47590057)

Dang. I've previously posted a reply before reading this comment and have no mod points.

Re:What's Changed (2)

creimer (824291) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589089)

My father and my first boss taught to me complete my work first and then slack off because there was no more work to complete. Most people try to stretch things out during the day to look busy and get into a jam when something urgent crash lands on their desk. It's not my fault if my boss can't provide me with enough work to keep me busy all day.

Re:What's Changed (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589533)

We gave management an inch and they took a mile and won't give it back. Every time someone has their weekend interrupted or is told they are expected to monitor work emails at night, they make a mental note to take that time back by goofing off at work. When they aren't paid what they're worth, they slack a bit more until a rough balance is struck.

A few work harder but notice that it doesn't increase their pay or get them promoted so they slack off.

Tracking GDP/capita vs pay (accounting for inflation), really employers are on average only paying enough to get one productive day out of every 6 workdays. The ball is in their court. if they want better, they should identify the willing employees and pay them the other 5/6ths of their proper income.

Re:What's Changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589765)

Oh and if you look closely, they are not hunched over their computer getting work done. They are hunched over in front of their computer, but instead of working on something, they are twiddling with their phone on Wastebook

You got some problems obviously. First, why do you have to be hunched to be getting work done? My standard position at work is feet up on my workstation under my desk, leaning back in my chair with keyboard on my lap to code and mouse on the l-part of the desk nearest me.

Its funny when i first started doing it all the old curmudgeons immediately thought I was slacking and getting no work done. Then after a year or so they started to realize, hey, he actually gets all his work done, ahead of time, better than my own employees, maybe his posture does not matter after all

Get over yourself

mo3 up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588935)

so8ething cool

Does better matter to managers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47588973)

I question the idea that managers care about "better" work. They seem to only care about people sitting at a desk for a certain number of hours each day. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it, and creativity can't be measured or managed. Managers would rather have people doing sub-optimal work they can measure than doing great work independently.

Re:Does better matter to managers? (1)

sjames (1099) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589557)

That is true enough for an incompetent boob. A proper manager knows quality and productivity when he/she sees it, even if it can only be roughly quantified.

Which is why my ringer is off (1)

jpellino (202698) | about a month and a half ago | (#47588987)

and I deal with the phone when I'm available to do so. In rare cases when I know a call is time sensitive I'll switch it on. Mail on 30 min check.

What's in your contract? (0)

creimer (824291) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589037)

As a tech contractor, I only work 40 hours a week from Monday through Friday. My contract doesn't allow me to work overtime or make up time(i.e., if some idiot throws himself in front of the morning train). I earned enough money and live a modest lifestyle to salt away half of my income into savings. The only work I do from home is filling out and submitting my time sheet.

Re:What's in your contract? (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589145)

Dealing with the work paperwork is billable time. I use this as leverage to discourage complex, Gant chart based approaches to micromanagement.

Very true (1)

georgeaperkins (1715602) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589157)

This is a great summary/article. And lets be honest here, most 'office' based people only have so much they really need to do on their current projects. You can sit at your desk for hours making work, writing emails, or sit though endless meetings where nothing is decided and the action plan in the minutes always unashamedly reads "x to report back next week with a final decision", when that decision was the purpose of the meeting. Contrast this with the more "Scandinavian" model where people come in, figure out what needs to be decided and work together to sort it out as directly as possible, and quite often end up getting home by quarter to five to see their kids come in. And I don't mean they're trying to minimise their work contribution - its just that unless you're kidding yourself about how important you are, there really isn't that much to do! Of course the exception here is the creative individuals who choose to work much more than they need for their own satisfaction. But often the bosses won't know they are anyway so I don't think the article applies to them. In the UK I think we have it about half way between the US and Scandinavian models, although neither are anywhere near as bad as Hong Kong, where meetings can last ALL DAY (up to 8pm), and you walk out realising that nothing was decided and a new event has appeared on your calender - same time next week!

Business Culture (2)

anmre (2956771) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589233)

How do we shift business culture to reward effective work more than the appearance of work?

Promote managers who have a clue?

Re:Business Culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589297)

http://www.hubbardcollege.org/

Re:Business Culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589407)

What?

and risking your position to somebody that might actually know what they are doing?

Foool

work hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589499)

You are not a hard worker or care much for your job if you are doing things not work related throwout the day. Granted, I'm a office/warehouse position, but other then a quick check on my fantasy baseball team to see what players are not playing, my time is spent on what I am being paid for, work.

All this time spent on social media (and other non-work related things) are a result of demonizing corporations of profit. Other then CEOs, most people don't care if their company make money, hell, they think their company should make less money I bet.

Need managers who have been in the position of their workers they are in charge of, so they how to tell if the employee is slacking off. Need to find employees that are dedicated to their job, even if some of what they do is not noticeable. This can be hard to distinguished till you go threw a few lazy employees, then find a good one.

yep (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589531)

its your fault, not the endless meetings to discuss what your not working on while in the meeting

Yeah, that's the problem ... (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589719)

... oh yeah, that's the problem, we're all working so hard in the US. Except those who aren't working at all, which is a huge cohort.

Counter-productive American work culture (4, Interesting)

CptJeanLuc (1889586) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589771)

From working from Europe in a global organization a few years ago, it was interesting to see how American colleagues always seem to be projecting the importance of their work and their persona, with an always-on mindset. And it was interesting how emails got answered in the late evening US time zones, with replies that were clearly in the style of "I want you to know that I read your email and am working in the evening", but with no real effort behind the response. And with silly emails like "going away with family on vacation for two days, so I will be reading email less frequently" - dude, why are you checking your emails on a vacation.

Furthermore, US colleagues often seemed obsessed about strengthen their own work position, paranoid about any initiative which may reduce their importance, and generally working relations and politics to make themselves as hard-to-fire as possible. Some people clearly playing their own agenda not really caring about what is right for the company. And creating as little transparency as possible about information they own, making it hard to objectively assess their performance, or replace them with someone else. The kind of person who will do what they are asked, and little else.

In Scandinavia, my experience is we tend to focus on getting sh%# done, and nobody really cares when you do it. In most work environments people are not expected to be always-on, and we embrace the idea that it is good for people to be able to take some weeks vacation once in a while. Plus with public welfare systems - yes, the dreaded "socialism" - you don't have to be overly paranoid about the consequences of losing your job.

One of the most effective tools I have had in terms of time management, is that whenever someone has asked me something with a questionable or unreasonable timeline, I have questioned the time frame and discussed what are actual requirements - and usually there is no problem shifting the timeline to something reasonable. Just because someone asks, that does not mean you have to say yes. There is nothing worse than under-delivering. It is better both for yourself, and for whomever is asking, to push back and find something that works - and then deliver a quality end product. Or some times reducing the scope - someone asks for a big presentation, which you know they may end up changing everything - and you agree on instead making a rough draft and storyline. So you just saved yourself a ton of work, and all it took was 2 minutes of intelligent discussion.

As for changing the culture, I'd say just take a position regarding how and when you plan to work, and let your colleague and peers know. Or at least discuss what is the expectation in terms of work commitments. So they will not be expecting an always-on mindset. In the end, if you keep delivering your stuff, I would think that is what matters.

Tthe answer to unemployment (1)

tomhath (637240) | about a month and a half ago | (#47589803)

There's a push among some to cut back the work week [nytimes.com] . That solves all the worlds problems right? Full employment, more leisure time, more people commuting, less expendable income...oh wait.

Look busy.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47589827)

Jesus is coming.

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