“Tyler, watch your brother and stay together,” I yelled across the playground. “Daddy has to do some work.”
It was 5:30 PM and I’d just read an email on my phone which required me to get out the laptop for a response. As it’s still nice fall weather, working outside wasn’t a problem, so I found a decent picnic bench and set up. The kids ran over every once in a while to show me the large leaves they’d collected (“Is this the biggest leaf in the world?”), but were generally good in terms of letting me work. It’s gotten so much easier as they’ve gotten older.
I have taken my laptop out in just about every setting you can think of — from playgrounds to restaurants to my car. I work when the work is there to be done, when a reader or advertiser needs something. We, as a company, always hit the ball back as quickly as possible on requests, so to speak, and we hit it back with completeness and courtesy.
But if you think of this always-on aspect of modern technology as a curse, you must also realize it can contain a wonderful benefit. That is, if your manager lets you realize it.
You see, having the ability to be tethered and thus alerted when something requiring attention occurs means that when nothing is going on, you should not have to sit and stare at a blank screen. It means that, after you’ve done what needs to be done from an “at your desk and heads down” point of view, you should be free (and even encouraged to) get up from your desk and do what you want.
And lest you managers out there fear such an approach will doom productivity, just the opposite appears closer to the truth. I got to thinking about this dynamic when I came across the article: “One of Mark Cuban’s Best ‘Shark Tank’ Investments Works Only 5 Hours a Day.” It discusses Tower Paddle Boards, a company in which enlightened CEO Stephan Aarstol sees no benefit in having his employees under lock and key from 9-5.
“(Aarstol) felt like a lot of time was being wasted at work. By forcing people to work fewer hours, he saw employees getting more creative and efficient, all the while achieving the same level of work.
‘Having that constraint on time forces you to come up with creative solutions. Everybody gets that with money — we’re just applying that to time,’ he says.”
I couldn’t agree more. Try this experiment — tell your employees to write up a list of things they are supposed to get done that day. Then tell them that whenever they finish, they can go home. Or, rather, tell them that after they finish, they must go home (some folks would just never leave). Additionally, tell them that whoever finishes first wins some kind of prize. I bet you’ll be amazed at the results.
You see, we all have the ability to work amazingly fast and efficiently. But it is not human nature to do that which offers no direct benefit, no reward. So why would we expect people to finish up early when doing so would just result in more work being piled upon their plates? If you connect the behavior you want with the benefit, you get the results.
In this formula, you get the same or better work, and you get a much, much happier employee.
“Aarstol says the best thing about having a five-hour workday is that it’s a great recruitment and retention tool. Employees love it because it allows them to spend more time pursuing other activities. It ends up boosting morale and nurturing more creativity.”
I’ve said to Kate and Nancy many times — ‘I don’t care when you work and I don’t care how many hours you work, but they key is we all have to get our work done.’ On the editorial side, that means publishing great content with regularity. On that sales side, that means being super responsive to any customer inquiry.
So while the above may mean taking one’s laptop out on the playground, or the beach, or wherever, it also means that, when you’ve put in the time (however much that needs to be), the rest of the time is yours. And to most, that means more than anything in the world.