Why you should be measuring results, not hours worked

Can working less mean making more? It's a somewhat counter-intuitive idea because our concept of work is in many ways still mired in assembly-line thinking. But in the modern knowledge economy, focusing on hours spent in the office can blind us to the true measure of success.

Denver-based software provider FullContact made waves earlier this year by offering its employees a USD$7,500 bonus to take time off. The requirements were only that they travelled, went completely off-grid and that they didn't engage in work. The theory was that employees would return reinvigorated and that their increased productivity would more than pay for the hours they were away.

It was a move based around the understanding that excessive focus on hours worked can actually cripple productivity. Overwork isn't just dangerous to employee satisfaction – exhaustion can hammer away at an employee's total output as their hourly production drops with each extra hour added. 

So what's the key to switching focus?

Put the meter in the right place: Ask the question "Why is this person here? What do they add to this organisation?" They're not being paid to sit at a desk for eight hours a day. Once you understand their purpose, build a metric around that answer, focusing on quantity and quality of output.  

Limit meeting time: Time is valuable and while meetings are necessary for keeping everyone pointed in the right direction, they have a tendency to swell to fill the time available. Be clear that you have a specific and limited amount of time available for meetings, this will force everyone to cut out the fluff. 

Location flexibility: What's the difference between a report written in the office and one written from home? There isn't one. With the right productivity software in place, location is no barrier to getting things done. Increased flexibility also gives companies access to a broader talent pool, such as skilled parents who couldn't operate in a standard 9-5 office environment. 

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