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“A critical look at time management”
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“A critical look at time management”

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Caitlyn Emma LewisA focus on the hours spent at work, rather than on the quality of work done during those hours, has created what Caitlyn Emma Lewis, 26, a Correspondent from South Africa now living in the UK, calls a ‘time-ocracy’ that rules the workplace.

“Time” has been a constant throughout my life.

With a mother who always ran late, I was painfully aware of the minutes ticking by as I waited for her to pick me up from school. As a careless and quick exam writer, I’d watch the clock as I sat and observed everyone else scrawling their answers, rushing against time. In my first job and every one thereafter, I was reminded of managements’ expectation I work overtime. And now, surrounded by start-ups, I am regaled with stories of all-nighters and coffee addictions.

It seems to me that Time, or the numbers of hours spent working, has become code for hard work, commitment and value. I can’t help but feel that focus is being placed on the wrong currency and it’s creating a damaging culture. I refer to this culture as a “time-ocracy”. Employees brag about the number of hours they’ve put into work as if it’s a badge of honour, as if the quality of their work is incidental in comparison.

In any context, a culture of promotion and career acceleration based on merit is a loaded subject, and any organisation will apply different values to their employees. But the question of time has become all the more relevant to me, as I have just set up my own business and I am starting to think about the type of employee I’d hire and the kind of culture I’d like to nurture. Of two principles I am certain: 1. I don’t want an employee who expects overtime to be the norm and 2. I will not cultivate a time-ocracy.

On the first principle, I am not employing someone for his or her time.  I am employing someone for their mind. I would argue that if I had an employee who was always at their desk early and staying late, it would seem that they have bad time-management skills, are spending their workday on non-productive pass-times (read 9Gag, Facebook and Candy Crush), or are slow workers. These are not the qualities of a star employee. Whilst I certainly wouldn’t want someone rushing through their work and making careless mistakes (as I did during exams), nor someone who has a foot out the door come 16:45 every day, I also don’t want someone who believes that as long as they are seen to be working their value will be recognised. I’d rather the quality of one’s work speak for itself.

The same goes for a time-ocratic culture. I have worked in environments where people were accused of being clock-watchers. Those who produced good work efficiently ended up on online-shopping sites to pass the time because they didn’t want to be seen to be slacking. I’ve also worked in places where those who lacked discipline and ended up working late into the night were revered as hard-workers, whilst those who delivered without working overtime were dismissed because they didn’t seem to be as committed. This is a dangerous culture.

The time has come for Time to stop being the product or service for which an organisation is paying their employees. The time has come for Time to stop being the currency that employees trade for respect and prestige. As an employer, I will be prioritising discipline, ownership and thought-leadership as qualities of strong employees. As a manager, I will be nurturing a culture of flexibility, delivery and responsibility as a group. Not only do I believe these principles will allow my company to forge ahead, but also it will create a working environment I will be proud of – an environment where I am no longer painfully aware of Time.

photo credit: Broken Clocks via photopin (license)

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About me: If anyone had told me that I would move from South Africa to London and start my own business, all within six months, I would never have believed them.

And yet here I am! New city, new business… A woman re-invented. There is nothing quite as refreshing as starting with a blank slate. What’s close to my heart? Women’s issues, especially in business, boxing, running, and hearing different perspectives. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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