Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Work sucks.

This is not a revolutionary statement. We all know this, although we might know it for different reasons. For me, it boils down to the fact that work tends to get more of my time than my family and home do. My office is organized, my desk at home is a disaster. I spend more time celebrating my co-workers' birthdays than I do those of my friends. And I spend many more waking hours in the workplace than I do at home with my family. It's stupid.

Back when I was in college, there was talk of a revolution- more women were in the workplace, meaning that more families had two working parents, and the only logical next step was widespread "flex time" and more opportunities to work from home. Ha! We all know what happened there. The idea of it entered the workplace, but not the practice.

An example of the issues raised by "flex time" can be seen in my office's adaptation of "summer hours." In this scenario, I can come in half an hour earlier and leave half an hour earlier, or come in on time, take a shorter lunch, and leave half an hour earlier. How generous to allow a grown adult the choice of coming in at 8 or 8:30, yes?

The problem with summer hours is this: I am my absolute busiest during the summer. This is the time of year I need to do the most work. Sadly, it is also the only time of year I have the opportunity to leave at 4:30. This extra half hour improves my quality of life exponentially. It makes everything about my personal life better. So I have a constant internal struggle- should I get my work done, or should I leave? The first two weeks of summer hours, I mostly worked straight through lunch and left work at 5:00. Nice! (Especially since I was told directly that working through lunch and leaving at 4:00 was NOT a summer option, since everyone needs a break and it's not healthy to work through lunch.) I have since forced myself to leave the office for a half hour at lunch, and for the day at 4:30. I feel like I'm a little behind, but I also feel I would kick myself if I missed my only opportunity to have anything resembling work-life balance.

Of course, this scenario makes no business sense at all. The logical thing would be for me to work as hard as I can in the summer in order to get my job done, then have an opportunity for "summer hours" in a time when I'm not as busy. But our HR department would never allow that, so I don't bother getting upset about it. It's just not the way things are done. Or is it?

I was recently alerted to the breathtakingly perfect situation at the Best Buy corporate offices. Apparently they have adopted a radical new approach to the concept of work: ROWE, which stands for Results-Only Work Environment. Basically the idea is this: Each person is free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done.

Whaaa? You mean it's more important for the job to get done than for butts to be in chairs from 8:30-5:00? You don't say! How sad that in 2008 this is deemed "radical" when really it just seems logical. But as I read about it, I realized what a blow this was to the traditional power structure of the American office. It is a change that needs to be made- check out the increase in productivity described in that article!- but I can see that it will be slow in coming.

The two women who implemented the work plan have written a book about it- it really is amazing. Seriously- take a minute to read about it. If you skipped the earlier link, go back to it. I'll wait.

Done already? OK, admit it- your mind is blown. You just read those articles and then imagined how much better your life could be, didn't you? I actually got tears in my eyes when I read about it. Let's all hope that this is the wave of the future. In my case, the immediate future- there was talk around my office that I might get to work slightly different hours if Connor gets a spot at Snowden for kindergarten. Here's hoping (well, that he gets into Snowden!) that someone realizes that I can get my work done just as well at 7:30 in the morning as I can at 8:30, and that getting work done really is the most important thing. Maybe this post can serve as an example of my early-morning industriousness.

P.S. If you didn't read those articles, go back and read them!

P.P.S. Let's hope my one foray into writing about work doesn't get me dooced.


An said...

less time = happier workers
happier workers = more productivity

Sassy Molassy said...

You should talk to your boss and show her those articles. really!

Stacey Greenberg said...

chip sent me those links last week. duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

Mrs. Katherine said...

i love your GIANT stack of post-its!

Cathy said...

This is the first I have heard of summer hours after being here for almost 2 years. I guess that says a lot about our HR department (or my supervisors!). Hmmm...

Lisa said...

ALSAC just instituted new "flex" hours where we can choose what time we come in: 8, 8:30 or 9. We have to commit to a time for 3 months. It hasn't really started yet, so I am curious to see if it will really make a difference. It won't for me. I already go in at 8:30, but now I just won't have to feel guilty about it ; )

Unknown said...


What a great post - you had us laughing, sneering, cheering, and so happy that you are a fan of ROWE.

Summer hours and other flexible work options are a complete joke. And it's time for all of us to wake up to that fact. Allowing employees - yes, allowing them - to come in a half-hour later or leave a half-hour earlier is a crock. Can we have a bathroom pass with that, too?

All we have to say is that you completely get it - and we hope you'll continue spreading the word. It's great to have people like you as advocates - keep it up!

Cali & Jody
Creators of the Results-Only Work Environment