Working for outcomes, not hours

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 14, 2023, 11:34 AM | comments: 0

There is a subset of executives that are making moves to put people doing desk jobs back in offices. They usually cite some reasoning that people collaborate better in person. Research tends to show that people are more productive, less stressed and less likely to bail when they work remote. There are other reasons that I suspect they really want butts in seats. It's likely some combination of having real estate that they're already paying for and a lack of trust that people are doing the work.

Salaried, white collar desk jobs are still in a strange place, where some believe that they're paying you for your time instead of your outcomes. A CEO once asked me how I know if my software engineers are working when they're remote, and I asked him how he knew his sales folk were working (his background was sales). He said, unsurprisingly, that they brought in revenue. I simply told him, software engineers deliver software. He didn't have a good response for that.

The truth is that most non-hourly jobs have some level of ebb and flow when it comes to the work load. I absolutely have weeks where I really only have a good 30 hours of things to do, but I also have weeks where I'm in it for 50 hours. It shouldn't matter. I'm not accountable to time spent, I'm accountable for outcomes. My reviews aren't about time spent, they're about outcomes.

Think about all of the jobs that are obviously outcome driven. Teachers, actors, lawn mowers, Doordash drivers... you aren't monitoring the time they take to do the job. (Sidebar: this works in the negative for teachers, who are paid too little given the time spent.)

The value of professionals is in the things that they can do, not how much time it takes to do them. They aren't doing hourly work that results in more output with time.


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