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Thread: Should we really be at work?

  1. #1
    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Should we really be at work?

    I've been reading the Small Business 2.0 Blog and thought that this might be an interesting thing to discuss.

    I read this interesting article called "smashing the clock" in BusinessWeek about BestBuy's corporate-wide ROWE Program which stands for Results Only Work Environment. Here's the way BestBuy describes what ROWE means to them: "The official policy for this post-face-time, location-agnostic way of working is that people are free to work wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as they get their work done."

    The Changing Nature of "Work" on Small Business 2.0
    That is the gist of it - getting the work done. I'm trying to structure my business in a way that does not require everyone to be "at the office" for 40hrs a week, so this is particularly close to my heart.

    The nature of my business at the moment is very much a knowledge worker setup, with just about everything shareable via internet/email/etc.

    Obviously a decentralised worker setup has challenges and will suit certain people better than others. I found the particular way of doing things for Small Business 2.0 quite interesting,

    When we are in the office, we do not work in cubicles or offices, we all work in a large conference room facing each other. I often will write a list of things we need to get done on a whiteboard at the beginning of the session. We tend to bring each item up, talk about the item, do a bit of research, talk about it some more, make a decision, and move on to the next one.

    From a work/privacy perspective, our environment is kind of interesting. Most companies of our size have either five cubicles or five offices clustered together where people work 40+ hours a week in their office/cubicle. This type of work environment is rather restrictive in terms of privacy all of the time. My personal work environment is about 45 hours a week working alone (and via email/telephone) and 20 hours a week working with no privacy -- sitting around a table with my co-workers able to see and hear my every move. It is not for everyone, but I think I get a ton more done by having a lot of privacy to think hard for most of my week and no privacy for part of my week vs. limited privacy the entire week.
    So, what are the barriers to this?

    I think that one of the things that stops people from going this route is that the "boss" thinks he is losing control - what is everyone doing? what is the money I'm paying getting me? etc.

  2. #2
    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    I was sitting next to a trade unionist on a flight about a month ago. I jokingly said that as a business owner, I'd like to pay staff in relation to contribution to the company's bottom line - he'd like staff to be paid in relation to sweat. It was fun discussion, but we both agreed it's not about simply turning up and logging the hours.

    I seriously think pay is best made in relation to contribution to the bottom line, but when it comes to playing with flexi-time, or location, it really depends on the activity.

    In sales you have to measure results. Doesn't matter if you only worked one hour the whole month if that produced the numbers. The only catch is you might have doubled the results if you'd worked for two hours
    But if you slogged 10 hours a day, day after day, and produced no results I'm afraid the only value you have is a lesson in how not to do it, and it just does not pay that well.

    Some aspects of administration may lend itself to flexi-time and off-site work. But there is a need for an established routine for communication, and of course, someone needs to be available to answer the phone at all times during regular working hours.

    Production, I find, definitely needs a tight discipline on both fronts. Planning schedules and co-ordinating teams becomes an absolute nightmare in a flexible timekeeping environment. Given that we're in the service industry, time keeping and locality are non-negotiables, although sometimes the opportunity presents to pick up a staffer en-route to the job or dropped off near home along the way back. Unfortunately, from experience, relaxing on this front often leads to abuse of the flexibility allowed.

    Creative activities I think tends to keep its own hours (much to my wife's irritation at times). But the saying that sometimes its more perspiration than inspiration is just so true.

    I'd be wary of breaking routines without very good reason and without very clear structure. Routines produce predictable results. Flexibility is a tad less predictable. Sure, sometimes it might produce surprise positive, but surprise negative is just as likely.
    Seeing opportunity changes nothing. Seizing opportunity and running with it changes lives.

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