Professional Jeweler Archive: Stop Working?

November 2000

Managing/People


Stop Working?

A new trend would make Simon Legree turn in his grave


Are you one of those managers who thinks he’s doing a great job because your employees never take a vacation? Who sit on the beach with their cell phones nearby? Or who work every weekend?
Bend over for your spanking.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a growing number – small, but growing – of U.S. businesses are encouraging their people to kick back more. Overwork causes burnout, they say, and this causes people to work less efficiently. In short, it’s bad for business.

Approaches range from a weekly “Thinking Day” at a Southwest Airlines unit to tough restrictions on weekend and vacation toil. Intel Corp. workshops encourage busy workers to tell supervisors to stop calling them at home at night. A sales division of Hewlett-Packard Co. helps to arrange backups so people can take uninterrupted holidays.

Since 1997, Deloitte & Touche has banned Sunday travel for its U.S. consultants. Now, rather than fly out on Sunday and spend five days working with clients, consultants fly out on Mondays, spend three nights and four days there and then fly home to spend the fifth day working in their home offices. No client has objected.

At S.C. Johnson, the company that makes Windex and Ziploc storage bags, meetings are banned on alternate Fridays. The company found that some employees were spending so much time in meetings that many were forced to take work home.

After a meeting-free pilot program in 1999, nearly two-thirds of headquarters participants reported their productivity increased on test Fridays. Since then, S.C. Johnson has extended the ban nationwide. “I have better feelings that I’m in control,” said Jim Potochik, a Bay City, MI, site manager who once spent 60% of his workweek in meetings. “You need to be able to pull away from work to get recharged.”

In a similar effort, Nestle USA forbids meetings after 10 a.m. on Fridays.

Most bosses, however, continue to worsen the time-shortage problem by issuing devices that make their staffs reachable anywhere anytime. About 41% of employers equip workers with cell phones or pagers, while 57% offer laptops for off-site use. In California, a study of 3,129 managers found 7% use their computers after hours for work.

– by Mark E. Dixon

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications