I recently came across a job ad that said “9 to 5ers need not apply,” and it got me thinking about the idea of workplace productivity.
More specifically, it reminded me of how confusing this concept can be, and how many well-intentioned organizations mis-apply it – like the folks who don’t want “9 to 5ers” — and end up, paradoxically, creating workplace non-productivity. That is, they end up getting less out of their employees instead of more.
So, to help organizations get back on track when it comes to understanding and enabling REAL workplace productivity, here are some core concepts to keep in mind:
Employee productivity is not simply a matter of hours worked
Overworked, exhausted, unhappy and apathetic employees will do less in more time. So expanding the workday beyond “9 to 5” as a matter of policy is, frankly, unwise. An employee who works 7 engaged hours a day will produce more than an apathetic employee who works 10. Plus, the former employee will produce at a higher quality level, which further boosts productivity since there will be less re-work done in the future.
Productivity is an expression of work-life balance
Policies that enable work-life balance are, in essence, policies that increase productivity – because a productive employee is a well-balanced employee. It’s easy to overlook this relationship because anything that doesn’t directly lead to productivity (such as increasing the hours worked in a day) can seem to be counter-productive. But the opposite is true. Balance and productivity are related; not opposed.
Narrowly defining “productivity” increases payroll waste.
Since payroll is typically the biggest expense in an organization, it makes sense to minimize payroll expense waste. However, organizations that narrowly focus on productivity and overlook the bigger picture are enabling higher payroll costs (and more waste) because their policies are triggering “avoidable absenteeism” which is absenteeism that results from an employee’s decision not to show up to work.
Poorly conceived “productivity policies” damage competitiveness
Organizations run the risk of “earning” a bad reputation if they fail to develop effective productivity policies, or if they implement bad policies. This will harm competitiveness, since future talent will send their resume somewhere else – to a competitor. This creates a vicious cycle of driving away valuable employees (which lowers productivity), being obligated to continuously train and orient new staff (which further lowers productivity), and then losing top new performers (which plummets productivity even further).
What organizations benefit from understanding is, generally, employees want to be productive – it’s not something that they need to be coerced (or intimidated) into accepting.
Therefore policies and practices that aim to promote productivity should wrap themselves around the core concepts discussed above, and avoid tactics such as dictating that “9 to 5ers need not apply.” Wording (and thinking) like this will likely ensure productivity never reaches those optimal levels and runs the risk of steering the best talent away from you. A very costly lesson, indeed.