Time management: working hours does not equal hours worked

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jun 25

Note from Scot: While on vacation, I’ve asked some of my favorite business bloggers to share their knowledge with you here on Cube Rules. To start us off is Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, of Cali and Jody and the creators of the Results Only Work Environment. And while Kate and I are on vacation, Cali and Jodi give you an interesting task for next week…


Hello, all of you Cubicle Warriors!  We’re honored to have been asked by Scot to write for you.  We hemmed and hawed about what to write about, and finally landed on something that will hopefully shed some light on your life in the cube.

We’re all familiar with the term “absenteeism”, and some of you may have heard of the term “presenteeism”.  Essentially, it’s the physical presence of your body in the office, but the absence of your mind.  Presenteeism at work can take the form of online shopping, online games, daydreaming during an unproductice meeting, or striking up a conversation with a cube neighbor because you’re bored.  When people enter the office environment (become “present”), they begin counting their time for the day.

For example, if someone arrives in the office at 8:00 a.m. and leave at 6:00 p.m., they’ll say they worked 10 hours.  If this goes on for 5 days in a row, you’ll hear that same person in the elevator on Friday bemoaning their 50 hours they put in that week.  When we conduct sessions to move people from a traditional work environment to a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), we hear this all the time.  But let’s examine it more closely…

We’d like you to try something: For the next week, see if you can keep track of the number of hours you work.  You’re only allowed to count the time when you’re actually being productive.  You can’t count time on your personal e-mail, going to the restroom, talking about things that aren’t work-related, etc.  You must also subtract the time spent in any meeting that you feel is unproductive or a waste of your time.

When you have your number of hours at the end of the week, submit it as a Comment and tell us how you felt about doing this exercise.

In the end, doing this exercise bolsters the argument for focusing on results vs. time in the work environment.  At the end of a week, wouldn’t it be nice to rattle off the list of results we achieved and get praise for that instead of having to put a number of hours out there when someone says “How many hours did you work this week?”

With the work culture the way it is, you could have worked 20 hours and achieved greatness in terms of your results, but the “20 hours” elicits judgment.  And so the cycle continues and we carry on with counting the number of hours we’re in the work environment as the number of hours we’re actually working.

If nothing else, we hope this exercise helps you see how ludicrous it is to focus on time…and prompts you to join the fight for a work environment focused solely on RESULTS!

Get your paper and pencil ready…and start counting…

About the authors: Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson are the creators of the Results-Only Work Environment, or ROWE™.  A Results-Only Work Environment is one where employees show up energized, disciplined, fluid, flexible, and focused – always ready to deliver the results necessary to drive the business. It is a bold, cultural transformation that permeates the attitudes and operating style of an entire workplace, leveling the playing field and giving people the ability to do whatever they want whenever they want as long as the work gets done.

They are also the founders of CultureRx, which offers customized consulting services and products tailored to the needs of their clients – companies and organizations committed to challenging the status quo for the benefit of a healthy workforce and ultimately, a healthy bottom line.

Their book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, was published by Portfolio, a Penguin Imprint, in June 2008.

  • Evie says:

    When people (are honest and) take a look at the hours of TRUE productivity … no wonder so many *feel* as though they are spinning their wheels.

    Reading and replying to this don’t count as work time ~ or do they if I utilize what I find in what I do ~ and if that is what I do ~ but I don’t use what I find is that a productive use of time?

    … where does “I’m thinking” end and “I’m goofing off” begin? …

    Great Article ~ Thank You

  • Hi, leave your pencils where they are… Install ManicTime and see your REAL productivity!

  • Smart post – the results will be interesting; looking forward to reading it.

    Now I should get back to work… 😉

  • Mike says:

    Excluding lunch time, all my working hours = hours worked. I hate being lazy.

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