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Why Punching the Clock Is Bad

Published November 15, 2012

There are many industries that require employees to keep track of the hours they work, especially if they are paid by the hour. Using a punch card and clock is a great way to monitor how long they are working so you can compensate accordingly. But the one thing it does not measure is output, as in how much “work” was actually completed during the time that employee was “punched in”. Even worse, time spent on the job certainly does not dictate how much quality work was completed.

Measuring hours worked is actually a lazy way of quantifying productivity. There’s nothing worse than paying an employee for eight “punched in” hours when he was only productive for four. Productivity in the workplace should be looked at in terms of:

1. Quality of work completed.
2. Quantity of quality work completed.
3. Time it took to complete the quality work.

By keeping employees on a short leash, you make them less productive. Defining their ability to complete their job duties based on punching the clock limits your organization as a whole. Provided you’ve hired workers with drive, if you give them an inch, you’ll gain a mile. Giving them the freedom to create their own work environment and schedule will enable a higher level of productivity and, thus, a better workplace.

Why? Because punching the clock assumes that your employees must be (and can only be) productive within those restricted hours of “work”. It also conveys your lack of trust. “Punching the clock creates a workplace atmosphere based on objective verification rather than fundamental trust,” says Devra Gartanstein. Their belief in the value they think they add is diminished and replaced by feelings of resentment and lack of motivation.

Setting limitations for employees to be in and out of the workplace at specific times gives them little incentive to perform at their peak times. If you hire night owls (those who are most productive in the evenings), you’ll get the most value from them by accommodating “their time of day” when their quality to output ratio is at least 2:1.

Don’t make your employees clock in at 8 a.m. if they can’t muster a yawn before 9. If their position does not require them to be physically present during specific hours, allow them to set their own schedule, within reason, if you want to get the most from them. You wouldn’t pluck a tomato if it weren’t ripe, would you?

Create a culture that harnesses your team’s most productive time of day. The fact that 24% of your employees’ lives are spent working means you should make their workplace a happy, fun and inspiring place to be. Let the early birds get the worm and the night owls prey under the moon.

Remember! It’s not the hours in the day, it’s the quality in the hours.

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