Facing up to face time

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Face time: time spent at one’s place of employment especially beyond normal work hours.

An extensive and often re-quoted 2006 study published in Harvard Business Review declared the 40-hour work week dead and face time to be paramount. However, researchers warned that too much face time actually lowers productivity due to burn out and attrition.

In a more recent study published in Human Relations, researchers conducted extensive interviews with 39 corporate managers. These managers reportedly perceived employees who put in more face time as more dedicated, hardworking, and responsible. These managers judged employees not based on productivity or results, but rather on ability to sit at their desk for more than 8 hours. Those efficient souls who completed their work in 8 hours or less were penalized. As Woody Allen said, 80 percent of success is just showing up!

It is interesting that even in this era of virtual work environments, being there is still paramount to gaining a reputation as a committed, responsible and dependable team player. Some team members are so worried about perceived face time, they spend hours each week just trying to be seen (in-person or on-line), all to the detriment of their work output.

Sadly, too many project and proposal managers focus on the showing up, rather than the results. As I wrote in my last post, I have experienced team dynamics where people are afraid to arrive after or leave before the boss. Often, they have finished their assignment and are pretending to look busy (but all they are really doing is checking their social media accounts). Even in virtual situations, we all tire of team members who constantly email into the wee hours of the morning, all to impress the manager with their commitment.

So how to counter face time? Some ideas:

  1. Work with the team to agree on objective measures of work outputs and outcomes achieved.
  2. Focus attention on the value each team member creates.
  3. Reward results rather than hours logged.

While perhaps easier said than done, focusing on productive time rather than face time yields desired results.

By Lisa Pafe

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Lohfeld Consulting