When analyzing the operational complexity of the human being in the work environment, consideration should be given to the hours they put in. The logic matrix of possible reasons for hours worked would probably yield greater permutations than the National Lottery.
Here, for example, are just some of the reasons why employees may work longer than contracted hours :
- – a fear of redundancy
- – hope of recognition that will improve any chances of promotion or pay increase
- – a genuine liking for being at work
- – a possible domestic issue they can’t face
- – a fear of failure
- – a personal need to check and double check all that they do
- – a lack of training in automation systems
- – a stubborn resistance to accept time-saving systems in favor of labor-intensive ones
- – a desire to get ahead of colleagues
- – etc, etc
The ideal stance of course is to work the contracted hours and no more. That is why they are called contracted hours.
In reality, additional hours can arise from the employee’s wishes or from ‘pressure’ from their employer. The good people manager will be actively aware that the goal should be :
- – for all people to work contracted hours
- - to ensure when setting objective tasks that they can be achieved within contracted hours
- - to ensure that work is completed within the contracted hours
- - to provide training in time-management techniques where required
- - to recognize the event when an employee puts in additional hours to complete an unscheduled task.
It cannot be correct to expect any individual to work beyond contractual working hours on a regular basis unless that is a condition of his or her employment. It must be the employees’ choice to work additional hours, and to do so because they personally want to and not because they feel pressured by the business into doing so.
It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure the well-being of employees who do work additional hours and to recognize the value of their contribution. It is also the manager’s responsibility to understand fully the reason for such additional hours. If there is a training or support need, it must be planned and scheduled, the goal always being for the employees to complete their work within contracted hours.
There are, of course, jobs where it is difficult to operate strictly within the bounds of contracted hours. If a customer ‘demands’ to speak with an account executive in customer service at 5:31pm about placing a £100,000 order, it will not yield the best results to tell the customer that you are going home now because you finish at 5:30pm and there is no one else here. Dealing with international customers also brings its own customer service requirements over time zones.
Most account executives who have a direct responsibility for a number of customer accounts tend to work hours which are outside their contracted hours, a decision they make themselves because they see it as a requirement of the job – they are better able to be successful in the job. By no means does that make it right, but they choose it as an operational requirement of such a job. Working these longer hours, owning the responsibility, should be, and usually is, rewarded by a higher level of remuneration.
I recall one such account executive who had a social domestic and pleasure reason for leaving at 5:00pm on the dot. He had responsibility for the biggest customer account in a business that operated 24 hours a day. The customer’s senior director wanted information fed to him daily about his orders.
The director started his day early so the executive got to work even earlier and, without fail, checked the status of every order and the manufacturing plan for that day, and relayed this by telephone to the director as he was having his first cup of coffee. At 4:45pm the account executive sent a fax confirming all had gone well with today’s plan, highlighted any order off plan and the corrective action being taken during the night, and then left on the dot of 5:00pm. This personal service approach worked well and the account executive managed to combine ownership of his job responsibility with his personal needs.