Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Your Workday: How Many Hours is a Good Day Worth?

How many productive working hours did you get yesterday? In 1994 I engaged myself proactively in a time and motion study over a working week to determine where my time was going. I wanted to do this to understand how many value-adding hours I actually worked. I wanted to share it with my superintendent as he had his own perceptions on how many useful hours the average employee works. It proved an interesting exercise!

I read recently that employers actually get more from their employees when they allow them 10-15 minutes every hour to relax and de-stress, however that might be facilitated.

My time and motion study findings were surprising--I thought out of an eight-hour day I’d work probably 6.5-7 hours easily, being a pretty conscientious worker and all. I actually found that my ‘productive’ hours ranged between 4.5 and 6; only rarely would I surpass six hours productive time from the eight-hour day. And I wasn’t wasting any time! I was diligently going about my normal business.

This brings me to the perception that the process of work is actually inefficient and supervisors and managers should quickly re-assess the demands and expectations they place on their people.

Perhaps a 50/50 day where only 4-hours of productive time might be worked could be considered a drastic waste, but it’s far from it in reality, especially when we consider the little rabbit holes people can unknowingly find themselves in. These are often no fault of their own as we’re all victims of routine circumstances conspiring against progress.

A 75/25 6-hour day, on the other hand, should be seen as an outstandingly productive day; both where the most effective work is done and where the employee might balance a little ‘relax and de-stress’ time in their day--doesn’t allow for a lot of waste though, does it?

Perhaps it’s time to re-think the expectations we’ve placed on ourselves--as well as those we place on others--around working hours and productivity? Realistically, we aren’t as efficient as we think we are.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

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