Do you work the wrong hours?

  • What a way to make a living!
    What a way to make a living!

Needing to work 9-5 is one of those pervasive myths that is damaging innovation and productivity in your business.

The old arguments for:

There are clear arguments for having everyone in the organisation in the same room - or at least at the end of the phone - at the same time. These arguments are usually seen as so important that they preclude a more innovative working-hours structure. But often these arguments mask other more damaging habits in a business and they don't really hold water in any case.

The first of such arguments is simply that we should all be in at the same time so that we are available to communicate, discuss projects and have meetings. The smaller the organisation, I've found, the more obvious it is to the team when someone is missing and the more disruptive their absence is perceived to be.

The second argument is simply that clients or customers expect the team to be available.. and not being available will damage the business.


There's a dangerous flaw in both of these arguments and its about managing expectations.

The expectation that you and your team are always available for clients, customers or internal conversations or meetings destroys your productivity and its counter-productive in any case because every time you're not available you fail to meet the other parties expectations.

So trying to be available all the time is just bad, dare I say lazy time management and its terrible expectation management.

Once you've understood that you'll see that while properly and explicitly managing 'expectations of availability' both initially and externally you'll also give your and your team the freedom to structure your working week however you like and within reason you can throw any notion of 9-5 out of the window while actually improving the productivity and appearance of your business into the bargain!

A new approach

OK, let's try a new approach. Get your team together, sit down and draw out a timetable for the week... like you're back at school writing your lesson timetable. Break each day into sections - a few hours at a time. Next think about when you're naturally more productive, think about the traffic or people's train times, think about when your clients or customers are most active.

Now mark out the week. Mark explicitly the time you're going to allocate for team meetings. Most importantly mark out time for working on the business not on servicing your customers; that's training, product development, marketing, documentation etc.

While you're doing this keep in mind that the 9-5 boundaries no longer apply. At Deep Blue Sky we've marked the whole of Friday out for internal development. We've then taken the last hour from Friday (so we can get together and have a drink together on Friday afternoon) and we've put that hour onto the beginning of Wednesday so we can have an hour long team meeting before the phones start ringing.

Finally get it printed out on a giant piece of paper and stick your new timetable to the wall where everyone can see it and stick to it.

In the weeks to come I'll be writing out some of the specific activities we're experimenting with allocating time for. If you've done anything similar in your organisation I'd love to hear about it so please do let me know by adding a little comment below and if you'd like to hear more on the subject just sign up for my weekly email.  

Jim Morrison Rumsfeld's Law is written by Jim Morrison; founder of twiDAQ and owner of Deep Blue Sky Digital, a full service digital agency in Bath, UK.

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