The picture is an old office cube of mine taken with an iPhone, and has nothing to do with the post, other than it is about the office. But not “The Office”. I am a part of a large group that has been told that working Saturdays for the next 2 months is mandatory. Many have been working overtime for several months already.
So, why do people ever need to work overtime? Pretty simple really: it is perceived that there is more work to get done before the delivery date than managers think can get done within normal working hours. What I started to wonder, is if this will really get more done. If you do simple math, adding 8 hours to everyone’s day sounds like it gives you more time to get more done. Sounds like it, but you take human emotion out of the equation.
We can all do more for short periods of time, especially if we see the value in it. We see value sometimes when we feel like it is our responsibility to contribute to the company, or when we feel a sense of loyalty to a product, or group that will use the product. Or, we can see value to us in particular when we are given something in trade. This can be extra income, time off, or something else that is seen as a reward, and that our time was valued.
When this sense of value is missing, it becomes a very different equation. It is also why contractors (like myself) are not as annoyed by mandatory work. We get paid by the hour usually. We get paid more for coming in. On the other hand, when a salaried employee is forced to come in, they need to feel a sense of value. When the employee only sees the employment as a job, or starts to feel like they are being asked too much, management no longer get the extra they are looking for.
People want to feel valued, and feel like the effort they are putting in is compensated accordingly. When someone feels like one side of the equation has been altered, they change the other side. Sometimes this is even done subconsciously. People may not rush into work. Take longer lunches. Go for a longer coffee break. When someone would normally work an extra 15-30 min at the end of work to finish something, now they no longer start something new 30 min to an hour before end of work. Maybe they decide to use the sick days when they have a cold that before they would have worked through. That extra day, it isn’t an 8 hour day. In late, out early, going off site for lunch…
Don’t forget the lasting issues. Contractors come and go. Some might go early… Employees can look for other work. It is expensive to lose business knowledge. The feeling of loss of trust and being undervalued are very difficult to get back. You can loose it in a single email. It can take months to get back, if it ever does…
So what do you do as a project manager and your project is behind. You need the employees to feel invested in the extra effort. And you need to ask. You may be surprised at the effort you get when you ask. Trust me, whether it is telling kids or adults they have to do something, or giving them a choice, choice wins out every time. The other issue, is that people have lives outside of work. Saturdays may not work for some people. What if they would work 48 hours a week spread out over the week? What if they could squeeze more into the day than they do right now? What if you and the employee could agree on the extra work that needed to be done, and then let the employee get it done on their own schedule? What if they are offered something out front whether that is some time off, or even movie tickets. What do you think the response will be?
Which takes more work out of management? A mass email, or an individual meeting with each employee to discuss the situation that you are in? Pretty obvious, but the bigger problems will come if you take the easy way out.