Over at his blog, Michael Specht (one of very few Australian HR bloggers — my wife is the only other I know of) is talking about managing an always-on work life, the intrusions it makes into work-life balance and the culture clash always-on can introduce between busy and bursty workers.
I’ve replied to the questions he poses at Michael’s blog, but the questions and answers bear reposting here for the sake of wider distribution:
Michael, I’ll have a stab at the questions as they feed directly into some subject matter I’m presenting at upcoming conferences and SIGs.
- As a manager how do you control both, personal and professional so one doesn’t take over the other?Good time management. Have allowed hours for the “moof” [mobile out of office] tools. For example, once I leave work, I do my best to not touch these tools until after my daughter is in bed. Then I give myself 2 – 3 hours to keep up on industry news, do blogging, do back office/afterwork stuff.
- How do we manage the “social/knowledge/collaboration tool junkies” James Governor talks about?You don’t manage, you lead, trust and empower. At least until these people prove they are unable to be trusted — an infrequent thing in my experience. Let them use their tools. So long as productivity doesn’t drop below acceptable, you actually don’t have an issue.
- How do we measure productivity of the “social/knowledge/collaboration tool junkies”?This is the easy one. Rather than having a n-hour week model (busy style) have an output centered model, e.g. Employee needs to produce x, y and z by the end of the day/week/month (exceptional circumstances notwithstanding). So long as those outcomes are reached, it doesn’t matter how many hours the employee is at their desk, answering email, attending meetings, etc.
If they have responsibilities to other work groups, obviously they need to be present when those groups need their input, but otherwise, every metric is against output and not face time.
- Do we need to change the definition of productivity?No. But we do need to convince management that it’s around output and not presence that the metrics should be based.
- How do you recruit a “social/knowledge/collaboration tool junkie”, what would the job description look like?Tough one. I think you need to change the model of the workplace to understand and accept the bursty worker (oh look, Question 6!). Advertise based on the responsibilities and expectations of the role, but make it abundantly clear when meeting and talking to the person that bursty styles are considered okay.
- How do we explain to the Busy people that the Burst people are actually getting their work done?The “busys” will never quite get the “burstys”. You can see this in my anecdote at acidlabs. Again, base it around delivery of carefully defined outcomes. The busys will end up being happy if the burstys deliver.
- If Bursty people can, or are perceived to, get their jobs done so quickly, should we expect more productivity out of them during 9 to 5?Wrong question. 9 to 5 is the wrong model. Burstys don’t work 9 to 5. They spend a lot of time in their own, or others’ heads getting the scaffolding around their problems before solving them in what looks to be short period busy work. Don’t count the thinking time as not doing the work.
The whole always-on model and busy vs. burst working is something that much of business is yet to come to terms with, particularly in many large, hierarchical organisations. I think we’re a way from really understanding how to manage this issue yet, but contributions from people like Michael, James Governor, Anne Zelenka and hopefully me might help.