Why do we persist on judging people on the amount of time they sit at their desk, rather than the contribution that they make? Presenteeism is alive and well in 2013.
You may have seen the recent research showing that a quarter of women feel that they have suffered discrimination or disadvantage at work when they have a child. Am I surprised by this? Sadly, no. Over the course of my HR career I have heard expressed many negative opinions of women, and men, taking time off for family reasons, that it would be hard to be so. I heard recently of an example where someone with a young child applied for, and was granted, a flexible working request. The employer said yes, but the person was subject to a wave of snarky comments from colleagues of the ‘it’s all right for some variety’. Why? Why do people assume that flexible working means taking it easy, sloping off, not pulling your weight, or working from home equates to watching the Jeremy Kyle show?
Technology now allows us to work anywhere, and any when. I am no longer defined by my desk, the 9-5.
Holding out for a hero
The presenteeism attitude is of course not just about flexible working or respecting people’s rights to find a life work balance. It’s about organisational culture; for so many organisations work must be seen to be done. A hero culture is created around those people that work long hours. They are committed, a good egg, a hard worker, the right stuff. A perception arises that long hours equals superhero, equals the right sort of performance.
The problem is compounded with it is the leaders of a business that are burning the midnight oil. The shadow casts long and wide, leading to the feeling that doing the same is expected.
In HR we talk about engagement, discretionary effort, getting our employees to go above and beyond. But we must not confuse this with working excessive hours. Being passionate about your job does not mean working until midnight.
Working excessive hours is not good for you. This isn’t my opinion; there is plenty of evidence to support it. Working excessive hours also isn’t good for productivity, good decision making…. I could go on. So here is my message to you. If you don’t take a break, take your holidays, but work till midnight, every weekend, never put down the Blackberry, you are quite simply not going to be performing at your best.
If you feel you need to judge me, then do so based upon the results that I achieve. Not the hours I work to achieve them, the time that I sit behind my desk.
If you raise your eyebrows at me, think less of me, because one day I arrive at work at 9.15, then shall I expect you to chase me off home tomorrow at 5pm prompt? Will you pop over to my office to make sure I take my full lunch hour? I guess not.
If you email me at midnight, I won’t think you committed, a good corporate citizen, a hard working hero. I will think you have an issue that we should discuss.
Let us finally make the break the perceived link between performance and the hours people work.
It is 2013, after all.