Feature

Measure results, not hours

Too many businesses judge an employee’s performance by hours worked rather than by value created.

Robert C. Pozen
The New York Times

“Face time” in the office is overrated, said Robert C. Pozen. Too many businesses judge an employee’s performance by hours worked rather than by value created. As a result, workers who complete their tasks faster wind up procrastinating, surfing the Web, or rereading emails long after the clock strikes five, simply in order to be seen in the office. Studies suggest that workers are right to believe they are better off sticking around to avoid getting labeled as slackers. Managers in one recent study described employees seen in the office as “dependable” and “reliable,” and those who came in over the weekend as “committed” and “dedicated.” These reactions are unfortunate “remnants of the industrial age,” when hours logged on the assembly line translated directly into more products. But measuring performance by hours worked “makes no sense for knowledge workers” in the 21st century, and bosses who implicitly reward those who stay late “are undermining incentives for workers to be efficient.” Many organizations will struggle with learning to focus on results rather than hours. But if you can convince your boss to make that switch, it “will help you accomplish more at work”—and that’s something any boss can value.

“Face time” in the office is overrated, said Robert C. Pozen. Too many businesses judge an employee’s performance by hours worked rather than by value created. As a result, workers who complete their tasks faster wind up procrastinating, surfing the Web, or rereading emails long after the clock strikes five, simply in order to be seen in the office. Studies suggest that workers are right to believe they are better off sticking around to avoid getting labeled as slackers. Managers in one recent study described employees seen in the office as “dependable” and “reliable,” and those who came in over the weekend as “committed” and “dedicated.” These reactions are unfortunate “remnants of the industrial age,” when hours logged on the assembly line translated directly into more products. But measuring performance by hours worked “makes no sense for knowledge workers” in the 21st century, and bosses who implicitly reward those who stay late “are undermining incentives for workers to be efficient.” Many organizations will struggle with learning to focus on results rather than hours. But if you can convince your boss to make that switch, it “will help you accomplish more at work”—and that’s something any boss can value.

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