Craig Klein, the driving force behind Sales Nexus, wrote a comment about working virtually that I felt ought to be explored. You can see the original comment and read my post Virtually There by clicking this link.
What Craig said was that we should hold virtual worker accountable for their production, not their attendance. And so I thought, if we can hold virtual workers to that standard, why can't we hold most other white collar workers to the same standard. Clearly, some individuals are locked down to work in specific timeframes (bank tellers, cashiers, health care workers) but many people don't have "office hours" and don't interact with customers on a daily basis. So, now that the engine of productivity isn't a factory line, a machine or a business process, but is driven by ingenuity and good thinking, why do we still maintain the 8 to 5 fiction?
In the not so distant days of time clocks, most people worked in shifts, adding value to products that were built using expensive capital equipment. That equipment was expensive and had to be kept occupied to recoup an investment, so in many cases firms worked two or three shifts. The significant expense was in capital, and scheduling labor was important. Now, most of your company's assets walk out the door every day in the heads of your employees. Most of them are not tied to a business process or an expensive piece of machinery. WHEN they work and WHERE they work is less important than the RESULTS of what they do. In fact, most firms today spend very little time on telling people HOW to do their work, since creativity, innovation and a more open expansive culture has diminished the ability of the management team to dictate process and tasks.
With all that said, however, we've still got to feed the bulldog, so work must be accomplished on a regular basis with high quality, on time and on budget. Our metrics and measurements must shift to examine the quality of the work and its timeliness and value, rather than examine how often or when a person shows up for work or the number of hours they work in any specific day. What this also means is that managers are now responsible for dictating the expected quantity AND quality of the work, and being very specific about when that work product is due. For individuals who have proven that they can self-manage, the office and the "cube" may become a distant memory. For those individuals who cannot effectively manage themselves, their time and their work, the 8 to 5 workshift will remain a constant.