Follow the Professor: Smash your time clock and allow your people the freedom to set their own schedule
An employee is only as autonomous as s/he feels s/he has complete control over her/his own schedule. Instead of bounding work by fixed time schedules (unless required by routinized work, which most management is not), follow the model of the professor. Allow a person to set their own schedule, and measure performances based on accomplishment, not time spent on task. This requires the organization to be substantially better than they currently are at a) defining tasks, b) measuring outcomes, and c) holding people accountable.
In the 1.0 era, management has been overly distracted with tracking relatively simple measurable metrics versus more substantial and challenging to measure qualitative variables such as the outcome of work. Inasmuch as it was easy to count, there was(is) a heavy burden placed on punching the time clock as a way to ensure accountability and prove your people were spending "enough time" on the job (particularly for consulting firms that measure billable hours in 15 minute increments).
Any one who has spent any amount of time at the office knows that every minute in the office place isn't necessarily the most effective and efficiently used. Paying heavy attention on the hours your people spend on the clock neglects the fact that you want and should hire a diverse workforce, not all of whom work optimally at the same time of day.
The solution is relatively straight forward.
- Abolish your time clocks by having a punch clock smashing party.
- Place more focus on the jobs that are required - the work that needs to be accomplished each day.
- Identify the expected outcomes, and hold people accountable for outcomes instead of time spent obtaining them.
- Instead of requiring people to spend their whole weekend "working" for you (or more than likely resenting you for requiring them to work over their only free time that week), reward them for getting the job done whenever they get it done.
- Allow your people to work when they work best, much like the college professor, and you might see an amplification of the results.
The most immediate effect you may notice is a happier workforce. In particular, if you remove the shackles of the punch clock, managers send a clear and immediate message that you trust your people to get the job done. Moreover, you allow people to work when they are most optimized for getting that work done (be it 4 AM, 3PM, or Midnight).
Speed to completion may be another measureable effect. Because you free up people to work when they work best, you should see the shrinking of the amount of time to problem resolution and results, In particular, if folks are confronted with thorny and engaging problems that spark their passion, you no longer have any bounds (the 40 hour work week, say) to arbitrarily constrain their efforts.
Any given individual (or teams of employees) may spend a great deal of energy over the course of several days knowing that when they finish the project they can decompress by not coming into work for a day or two. Who knows? You may even see people work round the clock to solve a particularly irksome problem, where as before, they would have punched out and not given the problem another thought until they punch in the next day (or the following Monday after the weekend to find they've forgotten where they left off).
There is a real concern that if you abolish the time clock that you won't have any one in the office (there's a hidden upside, maybe you could shrink the size of your physical plant and save some money that way). However, if you focus on the work that needs to be accomplished, and you've hired good people, they will be drawn to the work, much like a professor spends exorbitant hours following a line of research in a lab. If some one has to feed the DNA, some one has to go to the lab at 3 AM. You wouldn't risk ruining an experiment because you felt like you needed a few extra hours in bed.
Once you start this experiment, you may find people conspicuously absent for a time, but if the work is compelling and something your people are passionate about, they may tend to spend more time on projects than you every thought they would.
Smash your time clock. Build out position descriptions that identify the tasks that are associated with a particular role or person. Allow and trust that person to put in the correct amount of time to accomplish the tasks needed to make the whole organization successful. Where is the harm if one person accomplishes a solution to your companies' thorniest problem in the least amount of time? This will free up your workforce to spend the "right" amount of time working on the "right" problems, and I suspect you will find that your people will spend more time than you would imagine on the various projects you need to get done.