What if ‘Hours Worked’ Didn’t Matter?

“Why do I have to spend 50 hours a week sitting at my desk? Should it matter how long it takes me to do the work I’m asked to do?”


This was from a member of a workshop I recently ran about performance and productivity in the workplace. My answer: It shouldn’t. But unfortunately it does.


Ask any manager about what really matters to their bottom line and they’ll say productivity. But rarely do we pay people for productivity - or even really mention it - we pay them to ‘do their job’…… which we conveniently interpret as ‘doing the hours.’


But what if we could get away from this? What if we just paid people for getting the work done that we ask of them?

Here’s what might happen:

a) People might work less hours.

Is this a bad thing? I don’t really think so.

If, as a manager, you expect people to achieve a certain amount in a week, and they complete this by Friday morning. Then maybe we should let them go home. Or maybe you, as a manager, should know your people and their capacity better, and learn some lessons for next week.


Worst case scenario: the person goes home early, has a great weekend and turns up Monday recharged and ready to take on another week at full intensity. Not only fuelled by the weekend off, but also by the prospect of finishing early again this week!

b) People Might Work More… and More Productively

If we actually changed the way we measure and remunerate, and we decided to pay people for productivity rather than hours worked (or, heaven forbid, tenure), then maybe the people that really need (or want) the money/ promotion/ insert other incentive, might do even more than you want them to do.


Worst case scenario: people do what you want them to do as the bare minimum, for the amount you were going to pay them anyway.


This is a big shift in thinking in Australia. Workers in the USA are 10% better off than Australian workers when wages are compared to productivity. If we paid for productivity, then people might be more productive.


Now there’s a thought.

** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.
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