Knowledge Workers and Overtime Pay

If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s similar to my Second Rule for Knowledge Workers, the 40 hour illusion.

Seems we’ve had a few cases of workers being asked to carry blackberry’s, or use VPN to log in to work during their off hours to answer questions, (share their “knowledge” with their employers), and not getting paid for it.

First of all, how stupid do you have to be to have people “on call” who are paid hourly, and not reimburse them for time they spend responding? I know the economy makes it a bit easier to push the limits with employees who are afraid of not having a job, but you still can’t ignore employment law, assuming that is what was happening in those cases.

More importantly, though, do you not recognize the blaring contradiction? I’ll put it to you this way, we want you to carry a blackberry, or laptop, and be available whenever we might need to access your expertise, but we’re going to pay you as if you were a factory/production worker and treat you as if you were for the 8 hours you have to be in the office.

It’s the kind of situation that made Techdirt ask if it even makes sense to have hourly workers any more. I certainly understand the sentiment, but I know there are plenty of jobs where that does make some sense, but that number is dwindling. How many people do you know who go to work, produce some sort of work product for 8 hours, go home and don’t have to do any sort of planning, thinking, researching, etc. when physically away from the workplace? Oh there are some, but it’s fast becoming a minority. Wouldn’t it make more sense to stop thinking of productivity in strict 8 hour shift terms?

Note that I am not advocating that businesses stop measuring productivity, there are myriad perfectly good reasons to measure how much work people are getting done, and how long it takes them when it comes to resource strategy. Rather, what I do advocate is to move the measurements away from “per 8 hours”. That leads to all of those headlines about how social networking, email or personal phone calls cost “X” number of hours per day to business. Not really, if I spend some time on Twitter during my work day, but also login from home to accomplish some tasks that simply work better at night when the network is a little less congested, isn’t that sort of a wash? If I can email my wife and make plans for an event while I’m at work, so that I have more time to read Ralph Losey’s latest blog “treatise” (He does write some lengthy stuff!) in the evening, where is the business harmed? My workload isn’t measured in widgets per hour, it’s measured by whether I can meet all of the deadlines given to me for the work that I need to do. If I’m doing that, and more, most days, who really cares how much I tweet, or during what hours I accomplish it?

If nothing else, allowing me to decide how to prioritze my own work gives me plenty of incentive to get it done. As a salaried employee I don’t make more money for taking longer, but I get rewarded by having more of my free time to myself if I get it done. That’s plenty of incentive!

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