Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Breaking the "Face Time" Habit

Much has been written about the perils of the "face time" metric in Corporate America, but Inc Magazine (a rather good publication with a woeful website--I had to google this article because I couldn't find it on their site) had an article in its August issue about the value of breaking the habit in small business. While the article presents an extreme example, this legacy of corporate life is difficult to eliminate.

First of all, shared office time is necessary for most any business to facilitate communication in a way that phones and emails never will. Beyond that basic tenet, the value of office time changes dramatically with individuals. The heart of the disconnect between people who those who put a high versus a low value on office time can be a matter of trust or commitment. These weighty issues are much more difficult to discuss than a simpler debate about "being in the office."

Whether you are someone who puts a high (although, I would argue, misplaced) or low value on time in the office, it is important to recognize this challenge and address it. Working styles will differ much more dramatically in small business. The work/home lines are typically much more blurred in entrepreneurial ventures which leads to early morning / late night computer and reading time. Cell phones chase you independent of your location. Some in small business simply value the opportunity to get a change in scenery. (I contend that this segment and its insatiable appetite for free wifi and bottomless coffee is the only thing that got Panera Bread off the ground.)

Small business shatters the traditional (and lazy) metrics of work. Hours in the office will no more guarantee your success than a third arm (unless you work for the carnival, I guess). But it is important to recognize the needs of others when it comes to working styles. It also ups the ante on managing your own time and others as it relates to clearly articulated results.

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