Where do you come out on this issue? There have been a number of articles about the effect that technology is having on today’s workers and their ability to unplug. I have consulted with an organization that has an informal, “sundown rule” (which is really midnight) that essentially requires you to answer emails the same day they are received. For that organization, the work day never really ends.
This is nothing new for me, really. I have worked internationally and been awoken at 3 a.m. in Hong Kong by a vice president because it was afternoon his time and he needed an answer to a question. I was sound asleep and I did get him his answer. After I returned to the United States, my home telephone would start ringing about 10 p.m. on Sunday evenings because it was Monday morning in Asia, where some of my customers lived. Calls would come at home any time after 6 a.m., Mondays through Fridays, as it was noon during that work day in Europe.
In the United States, we are nearing the end of March Madness. For those of you who have been living in caves, this is the three-week period of time when the 64 best men’s college basketball teams play to a national champion. It’s also a time of lost productivity – according to an estimate from Josh Sanburn at Time.com, the U.S. realized $100 million in lost productivity in just two days of the NCAA men’s tournament. Instead of working, employees were watching basketball games during work hours.
What is even more surprising is a statistic included in this same article that came from a survey done by OfficeTeam. The survey found that 75 percent of office managers and executives when questioned thought that viewing the tournament during work hours had no impact on productivity. I am not sure what kind of work their people were performing, but I find that rather curious. Further, 20 percent of employers said these activities elicited a positive impact on employee morale. How that uptick in employee morale would be measured is somewhat suspect. I also have been on some “team building” events that were held in bars. That may have raised people’s “sprits,” but I’m not sure about morale.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy a good time as much as the next guy. However, when I am wearing my “corporate” hat I have to ask myself if I’d pass the red-face test if questioned by my boss. Why are we allowing television viewing to go on at the same time we are trying to run a business? What do we say to our other employees who don’t like basketball? Feel free to go shopping or play games on your phone instead of watching basketball? I am just trying to get this straight in my brain so I will know how to answer the inevitable questions I am going to be asked.
I don’t want to be a hypocrite, so how do we deal with the 24/7 workplace? Do we attempt to define work days and work weeks? How do we define expectations of what we require/suggest/hope our employees will do when requests come outside the normal day/week? How about if someone was working on a project until midnight on the Wednesday night before the tournament or if he didn’t get home from a business trip until midnight because the meeting ran into the evening? Can these folks watch the game on Thursday afternoon without any concerns? If I get the way this works, there are no rules about watching basketball on Thursday or Friday afternoons on the first two days of the tournament as long as you get the work done that you would have done if you weren’t watching television. But you are not allowed to watch soap operas or view episodes of television series at work during tournament time if you don’t care for basketball. Got it. No? Me neither. Go Kentucky!
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Christina Haley O'Neal - Jul 31, 2020
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