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Let's focus on output, not whether you are visible

Sinclair Robbie
Robbie Sinclair



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02 September 2019

Bragging about working long hours isn’t big and it isn’t clever. So says Pilita Clark in an article in The Irish Times today. Her concern is that Dominic Cummings and his team negotiating Brexit have had their holidays cancelled until after 31 October. She questions whether one of the most important events in British history should have been placed in the hands of men and women who have gone without a summer break, having worked endlessly for the last two months (and indeed most have been going a lot longer than that without a break). Apparently Charles Darwin worked in bursts of 90 minutes, finding time for a lunchtime walk and a nap before doing another stint before dinner. And nobody dares question his outputs.

I agree with most of what the article speaks to: while we all need to work hard at times, having holidays and time away from work is important. It ensures that employees have mental and physical downtime as well as speaking volumes about the culture of a workplace that values employee wellbeing.

Furthermore, a desire to have workers present all the time can have a detrimental impact on gender diversity, particularly for women with child care responsibilities. These women may manage their workloads differently but this does not make their work ethic or output any less valuable. An empty chair does not mean that the occupant is not working; he or she may be working elsewhere or earlier or later or both. You can be in the workplace without being productive and be out of the workplace working smartly and effectively.

For workplaces this means that the focus should be on the output, not whether someone’s jacket is on the back of the chair. If it is a busy period and the demands are greater, the focus should still remain on the output required, and how resourcing should be managed to meet those demands.

As for Dominic Cummings and his hardworking team, I take some comfort from the knowledge that most of the occupants of Parliament have had a summer break and will only be back for a short period before having another!

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