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Friday, October 25, 2013

THE FOUR DAY WORK WEEK

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

- Is working at home a viable alternative to the office or just another perk?

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The four day work week has been back in the news lately. I am hearing of a lot of companies promoting the concept, whereby an employee works four days in the office and one at home or wherever he/she desires. The theory is to offer workers the freedom to work from home as opposed to the office which is commonly viewed as a pressure cooker. I never did buy into this concept and see it more as an excuse for employees to screw off. The only time I might accept it is when an employee is sick, particularly with an infectious disease, and it would serve the office better for that person to stay at home and not infect the other workers. Then again, we might get too many people calling in sick, but I digress.

The concept of telecommuting is an old one and something we would like to reward our more trusted employees with, but if you establish the precedent, others will claim unfair favoritism which may open Pandora's Box in terms of legal ramifications. To overcome this, you will have to demonstrate the trusted worker is more productive than others, and since there is typically no metrics in this regards, it is difficult to substantiate the claim.

The problem as I see the four day work week is one of perspective. Most of today's younger workers think in terms of hours worked, not what is produced during the period. This is a common flaw in today's work mentality regardless of your occupation. As any true manager will tell you, it's not the time you put in, it's the work product you put out. Today, workers are more inclined to watch the clock as opposed to what they are supposed to be producing.

Assuming we allow employees to work at home, how do we substantiate the employee has been working? Blind faith? For those workers who make extensive use of computers, some simple software can be devised to monitor computer activity and gather statistics; e.g., number of keystrokes/mouse clicks, execution of programs, idle time, swapper file activity, data transmission over the Internet, etc. When you compare such statistics between the home and the office, it would be relatively easy to determine who is really working at home and who is abusing the system.

In its purest form, I really don't have a problem with the concept of the four day work week, but it is ultimately based on worker trust, and I guess I have seen too many workers abuse a privilege like this over the years. As the old saying goes, "It's not what I know about dogs that makes me an expert, it's what I know about this dog that makes me an expert."

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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