In many companies, particularly fast growing internet startups, there is much talk about flexible hours and how face time is not as important as getting your job done. Results, not effort, people espouse. Most people sincerely believe this mantra but in my experience I’ve found that it is not completely true at most companies.
Ask most bosses about their employees’ work behavior and they can often tell you who is first into the office, who leaves earliest and who stays latest; who is responsive to emails on weekends and vacations and who isn’t. Indeed, every boss I’ve ever worked for has, at one time or another, made such remarks about someone on the team or to me directly.
This doesn’t mean that bosses will retain someone just because they are reachable 100% of the time and do actually care more about results. But they notice your work hours and, particularly if you’re doing a less than perfect job, or work in a job that doesn’t have clear performance metrics which you are achieving like sales, then your being highly available might be the reason you keep your job that day. Proving your value every day, while a slight hyperbole, is not that far from the truth because most managers have to justify their P&L frequently and wonder “what have you done for me lately” about even their most tenured staff .
The above phenomenon is probably more true in the US than other countries. I recently saw a 60 Minutes show on how the French, with their 10% unemployment and stumbling economy, still take five weeks of vacation a year – almost always with zero blackberry contact. 80% of Americans, in contrast, check email while on vacation. The implications of an always-on culture for work performance – focus, creativity – and even one’s health are debatable but, at least from an economic output standpoint, it seems that “semi-focused always-on” i.e. the US, beats “always-focused sometimes-on”, i.e. France.
So, just as I’ve blogged about the risks of working remote I’d recommend that you probably want to be visible as being a hard worker.
What do you think readers? Am I oversimplifying or being cynical?
One of my favourite movie lines comes from Office Space where the protagonist, who works at a dull programming job, asks his girlfriend "I don't know why I can't just go to work and be happy like everyone else." His girlfriend, played by Jennifer Aniston, says "Most people don't like their jobs. But you go out there and find something that makes you happy."
The quote always stayed with me that one should see their job as a means to an end and find happiness elsewhere. But this logic only works well in a 9-5 world. But when you're working 60+ hr weeks and weekends and vacations it's hard to find things outside of work that make you happy because there is no outside of work. Hence, we come back to having a mission at work in order to be happy long term.