Monday, November 11, 2013

Workplace Wisdom XV..Can personal work during office hours be justified?

THE chief executive of a company was complaining about his employee’s tendency to devote their working hours to their personal work.  He felt cheated that they were using the company’s time to their advantage and not giving the organization value for the money which the company paid them.  He was at a loss to tackle this serious problem which was prevalent both among the junior staff as well as at the managerial level.  He had issued many memos warning against the practice, but to no avail.  Can an employee justify doing his personal work in the office and during office hours?  On the face of it the answer seems obvious.  But this is actually a sociological problem.  Looking at it from his point of view, an employee spends the major part of the day in the office.  Granted, this duty is towards the organization which pays hi, for the time he spends working for it.  But the fact that he also has a personal life – which may sometimes include dealing with it during his working hours – cannot be overlooked.
 What is the kind of personal work he can possibly do?  Fill out his income tax return form?  Write a letter?  Sort out his investment papers?  Most of these are sporadic rather than continuous activities.  During school or college admissions, perhaps the employee has to run around for his son or daughter, getting the certificates, xeroxing them, getting them attested and so on.  Or perhaps he has to chase the municipal authorities for the renewal of a ration card or for other problems.  One fact that emerges from all this is that an employee has to devote a lot of time to personal paper work as stipulated by the government for a citizen.  This can be handled and processed only during working hours.  If the employer can understand this, he can be, more tolerant about the occasional unavoidable use of office time for personal work and the employee need not play hide and seek.
Obviously, there should be no question about an employee exploiting the consideration of the management.  He should also examine the issue from the organization’s point of view.  He must not make it a habit to carry all his personal work to office – only that which is obviously unavoidable.  As far as possible, he should use his lunch break or a dull period during the day to conduct his own affairs.  If his colleagues need his help, he must not prioritize his work but, keep it aside till his official duties are carried out.  The use of working hours for his own business should be kept to the strictest minimum.  Some bosses themselves have the habit of entertaining their friends and relatives during working hours, thus becoming inaccessible to their staff members who may require urgent sanctions or approvals from them.  Because of their position, some bosses even make their junior staff do their personal work for them – such as organizing a carpenter to fix the furniture in their house or an electrician to rectify the geyser.  Afraid to refuse, the junior runs around for the boss and ends up with a piled-up office tray and a backing of his own work.  In most jobs, the mandatory eight hour working schedule is more than adequate to complete a day’s work – provided there is proper time management.  Those who genuinely need some time to look into their personal work can do it without upsetting the apple cart.  If they can refrain from idle chatter sessions, day dreaming and procrastination of office duties.  All they need to do is plan their day’s work and quietly use the gaps that invariably come in a normal working day to complete their own work. This way, neither the organization nor their personal life suffers. Ensuring that indicates a sense of responsibility and true professionalism.