Today's New York Times has an interesting article--Time Wasted? Perhaps It's Well Spent. It notes:
American workers, on average, spend 45 hours a week at work, but describe 16 of those hours as “unproductive,” according to a study by Microsoft. America Online and Salary.com, in turn, determined that workers actually work a total of three days a week, wasting the other two. And Steve Pavlina, whose Web site (stevepavlina.com) describes him as a “personal development expert” and who keeps incremental logs of how he spends each working day, urging others to do the same, finds that we actually work only about 1.5 hours a day. “The average full-time worker doesn’t even start doing real work until 11:00 a.m.,” he writes, “and begins to wind down around 3:30 p.m.”
So how are we wasting all that time? Some say surfing the Net, but others point to the 5.6 hours per week we spend in worthless meetings, or the 1.5 hours per week we spend rifling through our desks looking for that report we KNOW is there somewhere. I'd argue that a fair amount of time is also spent fending off co-worker chit chat that is neither building team spirit nor leading to anything productive being accomplished.
Regardless, the article suggests that productivity is being measured by an old paradigm that is no longer workable in a knowledge worker economy:
Mr. Kustka assures me that the problem is not the three to four hours of concentrated work I do each day, but rather the outmoded paradigm against which I measure that work. Productivity was directly related to time back when Mr. Gilbreth was measuring things, he said, but the connection is less direct today.
“We are in a knowledge-worker world,” he says. “If you were building me a building, I could measure the number of bricks. If you were loading a truck, I could measure the number of boxes. But I can’t simply count your words. That doesn’t measure quality.” . . .
“The old thinking says ‘the longer it takes, the harder you’re working,” says Lynne Lancaster, a founder of BridgeWorks, a business consulting firm. “The new thinking is ‘if I know the job inside and out and I’m done faster than everyone else then why can’t I go home early?’
Which leads back to ROWE . . .
On a related note, go visit Shannon Turlington, who is running her own personal experiment in managing using ROWE. And via email, I found out that Rosetta Thurman's organization is also considering the concept as a way to deal with space issues in their organization. I'm curious to see how things go for them.