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If You're Always Working, You're Never Working Well 135

Posted by Soulskill
from the brain-gets-mushy dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Hard work is almost an axiom in the U.S. — office culture continually rewards people who are at their desks early and stay late, regardless of actual performance. Over the past decade, it's encroached even further into workers' private lives with the advent of smartphones. An article at the Harvard Business Review takes issue with the idea that more work is always better: "When we accept this new and permanent ambient workload — checking business news in bed or responding to coworkers' emails during breakfast — we may believe that we are dedicated, tireless workers. But, actually, we're mostly just getting the small, easy things done. Being busy does not equate to being effective. ... And let's not forget about ambient play, which often distracts us from accomplishing our most important tasks. Facebook and Twitter report that their sites are most active during office hours. After all, the employee who's required to respond to her boss on Sunday morning will think nothing of responding to friends on Wednesday afternoon. And research shows (PDF) that these digital derailments are costly: it's not only the minutes lost responding to a tweet but also the time and energy required to 'reenter' the original task." How do we shift business culture to reward effective work more than the appearance of work?
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If You're Always Working, You're Never Working Well

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2014 @09:54AM (#47588517)

    >The assumption seems to just be that just half-assing the whole thing is the best way to go...

    But that is the American way! It is the spirit of America!

  • by Torp (199297) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @10:06AM (#47588549)

    ... what will happen to those incapable of efficient work? :)
    At least this way they can do unpaid overtime and convince their boss - who's also incapable of efficient work - that they're useful...

  • by TheRealSteveDallas (2505582) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @10:20AM (#47588609)
    People learn what works. Secretly producing all of your required output in 5 hours then adding some extra on top of it - then going fishing for four days is a recipe for dismissal. Productivity measurement equates to attendance and attitude and workers have adapted by creating a steady stream of noise. You show up at the meetings, respond to email and participate in discussions. You smile. You go all-in any time of day for some trivial shit that you could have let go except demonstrate activity. You are a value to the team. It does not matter that you haven't actually accomplished anything meaningful.
  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @10:36AM (#47588651) Journal

    All TFA talks about is the hours of working, but there are more aspect of work than mere number of hours

    If one really enjoys the work one will not treat the work as _work_, but rather something that is FUN - - EXCITING - - REJUVENATING

    I have been in the tech field for decades and I keep seeing people who take the task they are assigned with as challenges that they want to overcome getting the job done faster, with more zeal, and produce much better code than those who take whatever they are being tasked with as "burden"

    It's not the hour that you put in, it's the fun-quotient that will ultimately determine whether you will excel in the job you are in, or otherwise

  • by Irate Engineer (2814313) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @10:51AM (#47588707)
    Exactly this. The culture that I have often seen (particularly in publicly traded companies) is that to actively think about and research a problem and kill it for once and for all is always perceived as too expensive and is frowned upon.

    It's apparently far cheaper to just muddle along with a problem for years and years and years. Or at least until the company tanks.

    In turn, this culture is a motivation killer, as initially ambitious employees will have their proposals shot down again and again, and so they either leave or just shrug their shoulders resignedly and Facebook all day, just keeping the illusion of productivity alive.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @10:52AM (#47588713)

    One of the bigger cultural differences I've found working in both the U.S. and Scandinavia is that American meetings are long, unpredictably scheduled, and really disorganized

    One quite pathetic situation/problem in large organisations is that people can be seen to be more effective the more "face time" you have with them. Thus some long meetings exist for the sole purpose of spending time with the people with the power to promote. Apparently it then snowballs into the "company culture".
    Since I'm now in a small enough place that everyone has no choice other than spending time with everyone else I can avoid that stupidity but I still see it on occasion when the company I work for takes jobs from some large multi-nationals - I get to see a little window into full-on Dilbert territory. Things like meetings where eight people from the other company turn up but only two speak, who get left floundering with no backup when out of their depth despite all the others there.

  • by matbury (3458347) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @11:12AM (#47588811) Homepage

    I think one contributing factor is the commonly conceived idea of management: Managers tell people what to do and when to do it. They rate their own success at managing and workplace status more by how well others comply with their demands than from their teams' or departments' productivity (that's an abstract number on a report somewhere). Lots of workers are unhappy about the way their managers treat them and want to leave at the earliest possible opportunity, unless of course, they like their colleagues (Should we reward colleagues more for workers' productivity?) When managers can drop the "command and control is good" mindset, then they're ready to do something more constructive, egalitarian, and ultimately productive... you know, like show some support and leadership.

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @11:13AM (#47588815)

    Some people use this to advantage to deliberately re-fight the same debate that they lost last time.
    That's one reason minutes, with clearly marked decisions and actions are so important.

  • Re:What's Changed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @12:26PM (#47589147) Homepage Journal

    The whole nation of the former 'German Democratic Republic' (east Germany, wtf, don't even know how they are called in english, shame on me) was based on this principle.

    When you worked you had to fulfill a plan. A pre planned amount of workpieces had to be crafted e.g.

    If you could manage to craft so many, you where payed a normal wage, if you crafted more you where 'over plan' and got extra bonuses.

    Every year (or every 5) the heads of state responsible for the economy planned a new 5 years ahead plan, including the most mundane parts like simple screws: oh, and we will need 3million metal screws with diameter 3mm.

    And every year inspectors would visit factories and 'measure' how quick the average factory worker could do his 'piece of work'.

    All the workers looked really busy, but did not produce much. After a week of watching the inspector would write into his book what could be expected from this factory.

    That was used to guide the planning committees in case new factories where needed.

    Surprisingly the factory was 'over plan' nearly every year ... so the workers could farm in their bonuses.

    Very strange feed back cycles, isn't it? The whole economy is planned on faked numbers of lazy workers, who work 'normally' when they work and farm in bonuses because they produce more than the planners actually had planned.
    But nevertheless other parts of the economy (like car manufactories) can't produce more because the 'over plan' materials can not be transported ... or well, there is no 'market'! Hey we could use the screws you made! But there is no plan to have a truck ready to bring the screws to the factory ...

    Astonishing how well the east german economy worked for nearly 50 years if you consider this, hm ... lying to yourself system?

  • Re:What's Changed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @01:47PM (#47589533) Homepage

    We gave management an inch and they took a mile and won't give it back. Every time someone has their weekend interrupted or is told they are expected to monitor work emails at night, they make a mental note to take that time back by goofing off at work. When they aren't paid what they're worth, they slack a bit more until a rough balance is struck.

    A few work harder but notice that it doesn't increase their pay or get them promoted so they slack off.

    Tracking GDP/capita vs pay (accounting for inflation), really employers are on average only paying enough to get one productive day out of every 6 workdays. The ball is in their court. if they want better, they should identify the willing employees and pay them the other 5/6ths of their proper income.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @02:03PM (#47589635)

    Some people use this to advantage to deliberately re-fight the same debate that they lost last time.

    Pro-tip: The best way to win, is to hold another meeting to rehash the issues, and don't invite the people that disagreed with you last time.

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