Work-Life Balance Cannot Happen When You’re Measured On How Many Hours You Worked: Performance Reviews Must Change

One of my bosses said something to me that liberated me and made me 10x more productive in my new job straight out of school, “Neesha, I don’t care how or when you get it done, I only care that it’s done.” He didn’t care if I came in at 9:30 am even though my colleagues got into work at 8 or 8:30 am. I worked late… but not on my clients projects. I researched how the Internet was changing direct marketing – and it led to me creating an Interactive Solutions practice within my company. If I had been told to be there by 8:30 am every single day, I know it would have sapped my creativity (not to mention, my energy sitting in traffic on I-40). Instead, I came in late, worked late, and mostly avoided the frustration of rush hour traffic. Many of my friends didn’t have this flexibility. And yes, not everyone was happy about this — I’m sure I was seen as “tardy” and “unprofessional” by some. But I didn’t let it bother me. My boss was really really happy with my performance. My accounts had stellar net revenue and clients were happy. This little flexibility in timings made me feel so much better about my work.

This is the crux of an article in the Harvard Business Review by Scott Behson (Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home).

He believes that in order for there to be work-life balance, managers must evaluate performance, not “chair time or face time.” Just because someone is sitting in their office 12 hours a day doesn’t mean they are the hardest working or most productive employee. In fact, it could be the opposite.

Behson contends, “When managers do so, they free employees to arrange their work lives so that they can be the most effective. Surprise, surprise: When you focus on measuring face time, you get…face time. But when you actually focus on performance, you get superior performance.

In his article, he also mentions this example of a company that I plan to research a bit further. Sounds interesting:

“Instead of infrequent, subjective evaluations based largely on “time on task,” Ryan now has managers, employees, and teams develop a set of agreed-upon performance metrics that are consistently tracked. As long as these metrics are met and customers and coworkers are happy with their access to employees, managers at Ryan generally do not track office hours. Once Ryan made the change, some employees who had been receiving high ratings by working 70 hours weeks were revealed to have been less productive than many who worked fewer but more efficient hours. Turnover plummeted; satisfaction, engagement, and financial performance soared.”

So the next time you talk about work/life balance, make sure you focus on what really matters, an objective performance review that’s uncoupled from time spent in the office. If your goal is higher employee productivity and its impact on the bottom line, then why not measure that? How can you create SMART goals for your employees? Try this out and let me know if it works!

I highly recommend reading the original piece (link below).

Work-Life Balance Is Easier When Your Manager Knows How to Assess Performance


Scott Behson is a Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home. He writes about work and family issues for Time, WSJ, the Huffington Post and his blog, Fathers, Work and Family. A national expert in work-family issues, Scott was a featured speaker at the White House Summit for Working Families. Follow him on Twitter @ScottBehson.


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