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Hurry up please, it's time!

FOR MORE than two hours now, Shantakumar has been glancing at his watch; sometimes furtively, at other times, almost defiantly. In case you were afraid to ask, it's time to pack up and head homewards. After all, he has put in those mandatory hours at the office, hasn't he?

Which brings us to a vital point. Is time at the workplace judged by the number of hours one is physically present or by the number of productive hours put in?

Clocking in

Some companies insist their employees spend 8 hours at the office. They take into consideration time spent drinking coffee, having lunch, walking to and from workstations, drinking more coffee, idle talk etc. They believe that the actual working time would be roughly 5 hours and that too on a good day. They also take into consideration the fact that people cannot be working all the time and thus breaks are woven into the office time. So this stipulation is only fair, they argue. Other companies believe flexi- time is the order of the day. It is up to the employee to decide whether he wishes to come in early or stay late or do both, as long as deadlines are met and no one suffers. The employee should be responsible enough to adjust and schedule his own timings to suit the demands of the job. If he leaves the office early, it clearly means that he has finished his work for the day and when he swings the office door shut behind him, let no eyebrows be raised. A certain boss even went so far as to say he would rather his employees went home and wasted their time there, than stay in the office and waste his!

Who is right?

It is in the interest of discipline that companies dictate the amount of time to be spent in the office. Can you imagine the chaos if people were allowed to stroll in as and when they liked, to work or not as and when they pleased? There would be absolutely no accountability and bosses would be tearing their hair out. It would be difficult for clients to schedule appointments, grant interviews and the like. What happens, for instance, if the team working in an advertising agency was told at the last minute that their client wanted the creative design changed at the last minute and the art director had left for the day? Consider too, the 6 a.m. shift employee. He must perforce be present at the time so as to take over from the night shift. The clock must govern him.

On the other hand, a conscientious manager, may, on his day off, come into the office to finish some pending matters. His mind is focused on the job at hand and considerations such as time do not matter. There may be times when he wishes to stay home and attend to some pending personal issues. His child may be attending his first day at school or else he may have to visit a sick relative. He is like the farmers or hunters of yore who were dictated by work. When there was a job to be done, they worked tirelessly, finished it and adjusted their needs accordingly. When there was no fire to put out, they took it relatively easy and went about their normal chores.

The balancing act

Addison had rightly said, " Much can be said on both sides". Both a rigid time schedule as well as a flexible one has its uses. It is important for organisations as well as employees to bear that in mind always and be prepared to make adjustments to ensure the well-being and satisfaction of both.

JAYANTHI MURTHY

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