Want to boost jobsite productivity? Let your employees set their own hours

Updated Aug 12, 2013
Contractor Stief Counts let his employees set their own hours with great success.Contractor Stief Counts let his employees set their own hours with great success.

Did you know we shouldn’t be working 40-plus hours per week? Apparently, economists of old predicted that, with advances in technology, our workday would be so efficient we would have trouble filling our leisure hours.


Everyone is working longer hours. When they finish at the office, they take more work home. (If you really are swamped, check out some productivity tips here.) With all due respect to John Maynard Keynes, it seems crazy that anyone could have ever thought we’d work 15 hours per week.

So what happened, as this CNN Money article explains, “rather than cutting the work week gradually over time (like the Europeans did), productivity gains have fueled a consumerism boom in the United States. So instead of taking time off, Americans are just buying much more stuff.”

I found the predictions so out of whack with what I see every day that I immediately tweeted about it. A few minutes later, in comes a reply tweet from a smarty-pants truck editor: “You wish.”

He’s right. Many wish for fewer hours in the office or the field, but few can make it happen. Then I remembered one person who actually has; not only for himself, but also for his employees. Stief Counts, a Chattanooga-based contractor I interviewed for another article, gives ownership of time to his employees.

They’re salaried, and on an honor system. They take as much time off as they want or need. But, wait, you ask, don’t they abuse it? Nope. The employees like the system so much they don’t dare abuse it.

They do their work well and leave when they’re finished. If they have a slow period, they spend it how they wish instead of trying to fill empty hours with busy work. As a result, the projects come in on time and under budget, with meticulous attention to detail.

Although not every company can implement what Counts has managed to do, it’s a good lesson. If you force your employees to adhere to a rigid schedule, it won’t necessarily create more output. They may just stretch the most pressing work they do have over the allotted time.

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Take a look at how your employees are spending their slow times, and see if you can find a way to give some of that time back to them. You’ll be the one who reaps the rewards in the end.