Monday, June 23, 2008

Are flexible workers more efficient workers?

I've just been sent the results of a survey conducted by Workology - here are the key bits:

When 1,000 flexible workers were questioned on their attitude to the 48 hour working directive
- 30 Per Cent Choose to Work More Than 50 Hours a Week
- 32 per cent work between 41 and 50 hours

For flexible workers, it’s not the number of hours they put in that determine a happy work-life balance, it’s the way in which they work. 43 per cent claim that flexible working has improved the quality of their life ‘a lot’, while 32 per cent claim it has improved ‘enormously’.

When it comes to ‘how’ opting out of the traditional full-time week has helped improve their quality of life, the most common answer cited (49 per cent) is ‘being able to control when and where I work’. Second was ‘escaping the rat race’ (35 per cent), while ‘more time to pursue own interests’ (30 per cent) came third. Having ‘more time to spend with family’ and ‘cheaper childcare costs’ trailed in fourth and sixth place respectively. 41 per cent of flexible workers would forgo a 100 per cent pay rise if it meant giving up control of the way they work.

Now virtually all of that squares with my experience - some weeks I'll work 60+ hours while in others I'll work just a few hours a day - especially when I'm balancing work and university commitments.

But what I've found is that I'm far more efficient as a flexible worker. I used work for a boss who was a great believer in presenteeism. She'd call meetings for 8.30am on a Monday morning; would holler from her office to make sure we were around and expected us all to be at our desks until she left (around 7pm most evenings). The effect on me was that I was permanently knackered - and also hugely underworked.

I've always been a fast and effective worker and found, after a spell of freelancing and then work in an agency, that I got the job done much quicker than my corporate counterparts when I went back into Head Office life. Now when I was working for Barclays, my boss just let me get on with it. He didn't care where I was as long as the job got done, and consequently I spent time in the office in London, but also spent part of my week getting out to my team members in places like Poole and Knutsford and also meeting with our various stakeholders around the country. I probably worked much more than my contracted hours, but quite enjoyed the changes of pace and scene that different locations would bring each week.

My two years at Forte were quite different. Chained to my desk, the time dragged horribly. Slowly work expanded to fill the time allocated - with the result that I was regularly working 50 hours + each week, yet achieving little.

Now, my goal is to get the job done in a reasonable time so that I can enjoy the benefits of family, a stretching academic course and interests beyond work. And I manage it. And up and down the country I'm sure there are thousands of others doing exactly the same.

Only getting paid if you deliver the goods (or in my case, services) really focuses the mind....probably in a way that being a salary man never can.

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