On my first day as an intern back in 2003, I asked my new boss about my working hours. He handed me a pair of keys and told me that I was “free to come and go whenever I wanted”, as long as I did my job. It was very refreshing — conventional wisdom at the time was receiving hell for being 15 minutes late to work.
More than a decade later, I am surprised to see that not much has changed: many companies still try to impose rigid working hours (a concept which has survived pretty much unchanged since the industrial revolution), hoping to create a competitive advantage by doing more work.
For a manager whose primary job is managing people, the task of evaluating the efficiency of an employee seems to get easier when it’s based on the number of hours spent in front of a computer. This is a wonderful delusion of control and progress.
At the other end of the spectrum are startups. Taking pride in 14 hour workdays and sleep deprivation is an excuse for lack of focus and prioritization.
Modern businesses cannot rely on quantity of work to be competitive anymore: they need creative thinking and innovative solutions to problems, which can only come from better work.
So how do you enable better work? By prioritizing quality instead of quantity. By hiring smart & passionate people, creating an environment where they can work without interruption and friction, giving them the tools to collaborate efficiently and getting out of their way.