Why did the Monday through Friday grind take so long to question?
“I’m in the office at 7 a.m. and I leave at 7 at night. I’m trying to make an example.” — Howard Schultz (Starbucks)
The best leaders value productivity over convention
Howard Shultz came back to lead the company after the unionization of Starbucks stores. He said that he was frustrated about getting people to the office. He notes that he’s an old school person.
A person who was once considered to be one of the most progressive of leaders has a dated perspective on work. I agree with you that leaders need to be seen by their people as engaged and involved, but this is not the same as being the first in and the last out.
Being in the office for 12 hours sets a bad example.
There is no correlation between hours in the office and productivity.
It creates the perception that it is more important for the boss to see you than it is to actually produce.
The pressure on employees to do the same for fear of being deemed un productive is obsolete.
For people who don’t have to be in a specific location in order to be productive, it’s not bad, but leaders with dated notions of the value of having all workers in a single place are, in my view, unimaginative.
Collaboration and idea generation can be encouraged by putting people in a common space. Spending time in the office on a part time basis is a good idea because of the benefits of socializing and making new friends.
The reason many leaders want office attendance is to make sure employees are available to the boss immediately. It’s a sign that leadership doesn’t like their employees. It’s not about productivity, it’s about showing up.
An excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the pros and cons of office attendance vs. remote work was served by the Pandemic. When leaders fail to observe and learn, they will order their employees back to the office when it’s safe to do so.
Those who have paid attention will make more nuanced decisions that weigh the trade-offs of each mode of operation.
Well-being, productivity and other factors will be considered. The best leaders will often give employees options such as a hybrid approach where they work in the office one or more days a week, and remotely the rest of the week.
The best leaders don’t chain themselves to the office.
Full-time Office Attendance is Not Always Bad
“Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla. This is less than we ask of factory workers.” — Elon Musk (Tesla)
“The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence. That is why I lived in the factory so much — so that those on the line could see me working alongside them. If I had not done that, Tesla would long ago have gone bankrupt.” — Elon Musk (Tesla)
“Our results show that firm-wide remote work caused the collaboration network of workers to become more static and siloed, with fewer bridges between disparate parts. Furthermore, there was a decrease in synchronous communication and an increase in asynchronous communication. Together, these effects may make it harder for employees to acquire and share new information across the network.” — study on The effects of remote work on collaboration among information workers published in Nature Human Behavior | VOL 6 | January 2022 | 43–54
With living at the factory as Musk did for a time, I am not in line with his recent directive that employees return to the office for 40 hours per week.
I agree with you that in an environment where a portion of the workforce must be in the office or factory to do their job, then those in leadership roles need to be there. I don’t believe that remote leaders can lead teams who are forced to be in the workplace. I agree with you that leadership is a challenge if the leaders are remote. It is impossible in the former circumstance.
I agree with Musk that leaders who have direct reports on the factory floor must be present and visible.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to make it a universal requirement. It requires a lot of thought and thought on the leader’s part.
According to a short-term study of remote work during the Pandemic, it reduces collaboration, thus productivity to a degree. There was no surprises there. It’s still not an argument for a 40-hour work week.
The Monday through Friday Grind
My argument is about something.
The conventional routine of an endless cycle of Monday through Friday workweeks, requiring all employees to commute to and from a centralized, and often sterile, facility, is unimaginative and soul killing.
The things that make work tedious, if not downright painful, are not necessary.
- The 40 hour / 5 day structure deemed critical (why?) is hardly ideal as it costs employees time (commuting) and money (gas, childcare, etc.) and employers must face the costs of keeping their facility habitable for more of the week. A shorter work week / longer hours mitigates this.
- Full time presence in the office, similarly costs employees time and money and likely reduces job satisfaction, thus productivity while increasing employee turnover.
- Other conventions are equally detrimental or unnecessary: endless cycles of poorly run and often unproductive meetings, dress codes (debatable, but I am not a fan of costumes), “face-time” (being seen = being productive).
- Actual productivity is often ignored in lieu of making judgements based on useless “measures” of productivity like how one dresses, how long one spends in the office and how much one blathers on in a meeting.
Sometimes working in a collective space is a necessity. Collaboration and idea generation can be enhanced by workers being physically together.
When leaders decide to allow full-time or part-time remote work, they usually go to the office because they have always done it.
Come to the office so we can make sure that you are actually working.
For many organizations a flexible hybrid approach that incorporates office time with remote work, work week consolidation and a rethinking of the 40 hour standard work week may be hugely beneficial, often conventional aspects of work are thoughtlessly applied.
Rather than default to convention, leaders should.
- Use proven productivity metrics to determine how to maximize quality productivity;
- Consider the long-term costs and benefits of a flexible approach to office work;
- One of the potential benefits is employee satisfaction (which will reduce turnover), thus employee preferences should be part of leadership’s decision matrix.
- Consider the efficacy of a five day / 40-hour work week. Both are arbitrary and / or outdated conventions. Leadership should look at the organization’s mission and the quality of productivity to determine whether work is getting done. Basing an employee’s performance on quality task completion rather than on whether they are at a desk or logged in for 40 hours, Monday through Friday will benefit a company far more.