If You Make Your Employees Punch The Clock, They’ll Want To Punch You Instead

And they’ll feel less creative, more contempt. Do you really want to go back to an idea that was innovative during the industrial revolution?

If You Make Your Employees Punch The Clock, They’ll Want To Punch You Instead

Do you ever feel like a Tyrannosaurus when you punch in? In a post for LinkedIn, Ciplex founder Ilya Pozin gives us a reason why:


“The traditional 9-to-5, 40-hour work week is just that: traditional. It’s a fossil from an era when the number of hours an employee clocked on a production line was a simplified measurement of productivity.”

As anyone who’s ever hustled for pageviews–or hustled their startup– can tell you, we are prisoners of our measurement methods. So measuring productivity by hours worked is border-line prehistoric.

Why? As Pozin observes, mandated hours erode autonomy–and people need to feel autonomous to do their best work. Strict hours–and the creativity-sapping environment they build–spur psychological reactance, the resentment-filled negative feedback that springs from over-eager authoritarianism. What’s more, if people don’t feel like they have control of their work, they’re more likely to fall into burnout–which is the opposite of engagement.

And as we’ve said before, engaged people create better ideas.

Time: the misplaced metric

Let’s further unpack why hours doesn’t really measure work with another choice line from Pozin:

“Setting specific time parameters for your employees ties their success to when they come and leave the office–not what goals have been met.”

While Pozin doesn’t go into what he means by success here, we can infer that he means validation. And as Sleeping with Your Smartphone author Leslie Perlow once told us, workaholics aren’t actually addicted to work, they’re addicted to the validation that comes from macho-ing through projects late into the night. The validation comes in the form of kudos from leadership and, of course, getting paid–which is one reason productivity expert Bob Pozen abhors the structure of billable hours.

So what to do? Have a conversation about how to build a metric structure that actually supports your goals. One way to start is to fork GitHub’s code on how to optimize for happiness.


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.