How Work Works

March 10, 2014 · 1 comment

There were many times during the 29 years I owned my printing company that I felt like my employees shortchanged me when it came to working a full work week. In other words, there were many times I paid for 40 hours of work but didn’t get 40 hours of work in return. My hunch is that many of you can relate to this.

Many people in the workforce, especially younger people, don’t seem to understand the concept of what it means to be “fully productive” at work. I think everyone would agree that the old saying “8 hours of work for 8 hours of pay” is fair and just for everyone, employers and employees alike. Yet the simple truth is that as employers we are mandated by labor law to pay each and every employee for 40 hours each week, even if they are actually only productive for 25 or 30 hours of their time at work.

While I rarely think that (any) employee would purposefully try to steal or shortchange the company of time, I have often observed my employees giving away their time to others because of things like chatting or excessive socializing; taking too many breaks; using their computers for personal e-mails, social media, or family business; making and accepting too many incoming and outgoing personal phone calls; spending time on non-work-related computer surfing; or even having multiple windows open at the same time so they can stay tuned in to some item of personal interest while they’re doing other things. I think many employees don’t think there’s anything wrong with these kinds of “on-the-clock” time killers, because they see it being done so often by other coworkers.

The best way I found to deal with this profit-killing loss of revenue in my business was to try to teach my employees “how work works.” It sounds kind of odd to say it that way, but it’s a very effective word picture when you try to explain it to an employee. And, FWIW, I doubt there is a school or college anywhere that ever teaches our children how work works. So as business owners, we are wise to do it ourselves.

In my case, I would actually do these little, two-minute mini seminars that would teach them how work works. How work works is surprisingly simple to explain. It sounds so reasonable, fair, and just. Plus, it’s easy to remember. In the case of my employees, I found it to be very helpful, and I think it did improve their productivity.

Here’s the content for my two-minute employee mini seminar called How Work Works:

How Work Works

  • Work is an exchange. As an employer, I have something you want: money. As an employee, you have something I want: time.
  • When you come to work here, we agree to exchange your time for my money. That’s a good exchange, and it benefits both of us.
  • In the old days, they called it “8 hours of work for 8 hours of pay.” It’s actually a very simple agreement to understand.
  • As your employer, I want you to know that I will promise to pay you for a full 40 hours of work each week when you are here for 8 hours a day.
  • All I ask, is that you promise to do the same and make an earnest attempt to give me as close to 40 hours of work each week in return as you can.

It’s surprising how well this little explanation about how work works helped my employees realize that they needed to (sometimes) be more accountable in how they used their time when they were punched in and on the clock. As a manager, I found this approach helpful, too, because it was effective without being confrontational or demeaning to my coworkers. I’m sure it will help you improve productivity, too!

My name is Mike Stevens, and I am a printer.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dennis Cogan March 17, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Mike: Spot on. The very “essence” of a mutually beneficial business relationship without any emotion, haranguing or hand-wringing. Super stuff…thanks for boiling it down to the very basics!

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