Justin’s morale dropped with an enormous thud. Justin is a very high performing technology expert leading a team that often works nights and weekends. He needs to take his computer on vacation because there is almost always a crises where they need his help. When he is not on vacation, a call at 2:00 AM that requires his help is not unusual. In other words, he is expected to be on call 24/7.
If he is up all night on a problem he will sometimes sleep a couple extra hours in the morning and work from home the rest of the day. He also has had the flexibility to wait for his kids to leave for school before heading into the office. He always puts in 50+ hours of hard work each week (at a minimum).
The enormous thud of morale smashing to the ground came in the form of an announcement from the CIO (Chief Information Officer) that all technology professionals were expected to be at their desk working for their official 40 hours per week unless they were at a customer site. Furthermore, they will be checking security card logs to audit when they arrive and leave to make sure they are complying. No working from home will be allowed.
There are some roles where being in the office for normal hours makes sense. The number of situations where that applies is getting smaller all the time. It’s more challenging to lead in today’s changing environment, but it is very short-sighted to revert to a 1950’s mind-set and a time-clock mentality … particularly for your top performers.
Most businesses have long ago learned that respecting personal time and allowing some flexibility for professionals beyond work hours that are from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday only adds to the bottom line. And…. with email, mobile phones, and text messages work has moved into all of our personal hours. There is no longer a clear line. Even thirty years ago when I was leading a software development group, we provided some flexibility in terms of when and how things got done – as long as things got done – particularly for our top performers.
To highlight the absurdity of the CIO’s message, I suggest he expand the announcement to include some additional clarifications:
- Payment for non-standard hourly beyond the normal hours will be paid a rate of 150% of your normal hourly rate.
- For emergency calls, you are free to wait to respond until you get to the office at your normal time in the morning or on Monday if the event occurs on a weekend.
- Any time you are contacted on vacation, you do not need to claim that day as a vacation day.
There is no question that balancing personal time and work time and having accountability continues to be more difficult in today’s connected world; and for many roles, working certain hours in the office make sense.
Obviously, managing to results, motivating good people, granting flexibility for those who have demonstrated accountability is more difficult for leaders than putting out a memo to limit flexibility for everyone.
Who knows how many talented people will leave an organization that has short-sighted policies? I do know it will be the most talented who leave first.