Where I work, we generally start at 9:00am and end at 5:00pm. Most companies I have been at, whether as an employee or a consultant, started at 9:00am and ended at 5:00pm. There were a few that started at 8:30am and ended at 4:30pm. For me, personally, while I like to head home at 5:00pm, there are times where I have started earlier and/or worked later, depending on what I was doing. It is amazing how stringent most people are for leaving when the “end time” comes around. When I was consulting at a company in the food industry, there were times that I had questions for the people that I was working with. If I went to their offices at 4:31pm (quitting time was 4:30pm), I was greeted by an empty room. Many nights it was just the director I was working for and myself. It was reminiscent of quitting time depicted on “The Flintstones”; the whistle blows and off the dinosaur we go.
Earlier in my career, when I was still doing accounting, I worked for a company that was in hyper-growth. The revenues and the size of the company were growing in leaps and bounds. Finance, though, was told that we could not hire anyone else – “Work Smarter” was the motto the CFO / Controller told us, it did not matter that there was more work to do. In those days, I used to come in at 7:30am / 8:00am during the month end close to prepare and distribute the financial statements for the day. This was before printing to a pdf and emailing. I used to take the green bar paper from our mainframe, enter the information into Lotus 1-2-3, printed the reports using WYSYWYG (formatted the reports), then place the Financials on everyone’s desk. Why did I come in early? It was part of my job, so I did what was expected. Funny thing is that no one told me that I had to do this, I undertook this task on my own – I knew what was needed and that I could fill that space. Recently, my current team shrank by someone that moved on to a better opportunity. We are still down a person, but we have all picked up the additional tasks in the interim.
How many of us know people that use the phrase, “It is not part of my job?”, yet they always seem to have spare time? Sometimes, there is a clear confusion for employees to mistake activity for productivity. Darren Hardy has given the example of where early in his career (when he was in real estate) he hung a stopwatch around his neck and recorded the time he did real productive work (i.e., sales related). At the end of a long, active day, he was shocked to find he had only 40 minutes of productivity. Though I think of myself as productive, I would be afraid to take on the same test.
The perception of our own performance versus how others see us can be very different. When you look in a mirror, do you see what other people see? Is the reflection that comes back at you representative of what people see when they look straight at you? Same goes for our work performance. It is hard to take a step back to put ourselves in other people’s shoes to self evaluate. Sometimes, being able to do so, can make a big difference in the jobs we do. Here’s to a productive day!