Studies have shown that managerial assessments of employee performance are often very biased by the simple physical presence of an employee rather than by the employee’s actual accomplishments.
In other words, if you want to get an excellent performance review, the odds are in your favor that you will exude personal effectiveness simply by having a more visible presence, such as working longer hours or being on time for all meetings, regardless of what you actually have to contribute. There are some obvious problems with this situation, described at length in a recent Harvard Business Review article by Robert Pozen. One issue is that this necessity of physical presence is problematic for anyone striving for healthy work-life balance.
The real crux of the problem, though is ineffectiveness and inefficiency that is masked by an outward appearance of personal effectiveness. According to Pozen:
When managers judge their employees’ work by the time they spend at the office, they impede the development of productive habits. By focusing on hours worked instead of results produced, they let professionals avoid answering the most critical question: ‘Am I currently using my time in the best possible way?’ As a result, professionals often use their time inefficiently.
This is not to say that time spent in meetings, time spent perfecting a presentation, or even time spent socializing around the water cooler is time wasted. Rather, it brings into question whether every single employee needs to be in on a given meeting, or whether just the most essential players need come, while the others are brought up to date by the meeting minutes. By the practice of dividing and conquering rather than having a roll call at each and every meeting, employees can accomplish much more in a shorter period of time.
Giving employees the freedom to prioritize their own workload and control their own time management improves their work-life balance. Otherwise, “if you measure your productivity by time spent, your only way to get ahead is to spend more hours in the office — to the detriment of the rest of your life.”
Ultimately, we can’t simply value people by the number of hours they work in a week. Someone who works more hours doesn’t necessarily have better personal effectiveness than his colleagues. In fact, he may be less effective. Pozen points out that “The value of lawyers, consultants, and analysts isn’t the time they spend, but the value they create through their knowledge.”
When managers can begin to see beyond physical presence to actual results, the culture of your business can shift to one which truly values and appreciates its employees for what they actually have to offer, both in and out of the office.