Yesterday some of us from the non profit sector met up briefly. One of the issues that came up for discussion was the problem of having to drastically cut operational costs. Some organizations were cutting back on staff as a coping mechanism. Others were trying to move into smaller offices in not so reputable neighborhoods.
We were wondering why no one had thought about looking at the “work from home “ option for those people whose jobs did not involve public interface . After all corporates were doing it these days. So why not non profits?
But you will be surprised to hear the resistance to this “work from home” idea – most of this coming from some very experienced and senior people in this sector.
Objection 1 “ Response time reduces if people work out of home”
Objection 2 “ If there is a need to meet people cannot make it”
Objection 3 ( this one takes the cake along with the bakery!) “ How are we sure that people are working for the complete 8 hours? They could be working only for 4-5 hours” !!!!!!
While objections 1 and 2 are very person specific in the sense that some people respond late wherever they are to any correspondence or pressing issue objection 3 was what astounded me! It brought out the poverty of understanding on the person’s part.
It told me that many people think that being involved in some activity is what work is all about and not about completing it. There have been days when I have completed my planned work for the day by about lunch time but due to attitudes like this have had to hang on in office till 4.30PM when I receive comments on reports done and so I do a second draft which again takes about a couple of hours to get response and finally I leave the office at 6.30PM while my effective working time has been less than 5 hours!!!
I wonder along the way if this is a male thing? Since most men really are not expected to shoulder much responsibility or “do work” at home – they like to spend these hours away at work coming back home by 7PM or so feeling very pleased with themselves.
But it is another story for us women…!! Due to inefficient management of time at the work place we are unable to manage our time at home. I also realize that objection 3 is a reflection of a systemic failure. If we have to keep employees completely engaged in “work” for 8 hours the entire chain has to function in a manner that work keeps coming in to all for the 8 hours.
Consider this – I have 3 important reports to complete – they need to be finalized by this evening. My daughter is down with the flu. So what do I do? I take off and after completing my household work by 10AM sit next to her and hammer away at the key board completing reports 1 and 2 . At about 12 noon I take a break – coax my daughter to eat lunch, get her to eat a paracetamol and after doing the dishes go back to report 3 which is over by 4.30 PM. I then take her to the paediatrician and we are back home by 6 . I open my inbox to check if there are any comments on these “important reports”--- none!!!!! I receive comments about 3 days later!!! So you see, it becomes crystal clear – in order to hide systemic inefficiencies we insist that people be physically present at the work place.
I would like to quote another example – this time from the days of yore when typists were employed in droves by organizations. There was this lady who was recruited by an office. She wanted to be given work to be taken home and completed but ofcourse asses like those I wrote about earlier were there even in those days. They insisted that she should be physically present. She had this condition that if for more than an hour she was without any typing work she would pack her things and leave for the day. Now the situation that arose was very interesting- she was a very fast typist and a very good one in the sense that there would be no mistakes in the drafts. People were completely exhausted in keeping her engaged. They started blaming each other for the delays being caused ( remember the one hour gap deadline) and finally it became very clear that most of the people in that office were taking about double the time to do any task- it took a humble typist to make them realize that!
We are so caught up in activities that we fail to look at the deliverables. Sometimes I also think that if organizations were to seriously look at planning and evaluating against employee deliverables then there would be a lot of managers who would go out of jobs ! Most of often work allocation and setting deliverables are something that the management style in our country is just not geared for. We like to treat our employees like children- “Are you at your desk or are you standing in the corridor chatting with someone?” Well, nobody seems to realize that so long I and the person with whom I am chatting have completed our tasks for the day what is the harm? Or if chatting is a problem, then let us go home so we can do something more useful there.
My daughter’s physics text book defines work as Force x distance. While I would have earlier said that it is “task completion within a time line” after that meeting yesterday I feel it should be “heat generated by the action of a person’s backside on a chair”- the more the heat generated more the work done!!!! A sure answer to the power situation in our city today if we can convert this heat energy to electrical energy!