Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The Evolution of T.I.M.E.
I’m sure everyone’s all too familiar with this scene: You drag yourself out of bed in the morning after hitting the snooze on your alarm far too many times. Your brain informs you that it’s only Tuesday. You have your morning cup of whatever to help you wake up, take a shower, get dressed, get in the car, and begin the daily commute to work. Of course, if you have kids and / or critters in the picture, this routine is compounded eight-fold.
Now, let’s say it’s summer time, the season of roadwork and construction. Yes, you know Route 16 is being completely rerouted, and you left a little earlier than usual to make sure you get to work on time. But, today, it appears they’re blasting, and the sign says to expect significant delays. You slow to a crawl, with your mind subconsciously ticking off the minutes you’re losing in the battle against time. Cell reception is awful in this spot, so letting someone know you’ll be late to work isn’t an option.
While slowly advancing, you can’t help but look at the clock. It’s already 7:50. Can you make it to work from here in 10 minutes? Nope, there’s another 25 miles to go, and you haven’t exceeded 15 MPH for the past 25 minutes.
Great. Just great. Now you’re going to have to stay a little later to make up for this. Or maybe you’ll just work through lunch. On secondhand, maybe not, since you didn’t bring anything with you.
Finally, you get to work, park the car, gather up your stuff, and head in to the office. Your company has a security system in place, so you need to “orb” in. You know there are records citing when you orb in and out, so it will be quite clear to anyone who accesses that data that you were 20 minutes late to work . . . again. With this in mind, as you make your way to your desk, you casually gripe about how bad traffic was today.
So here you are. You’ve been awake for an hour and a half and you’re only just now “starting” your day. You grumble that with prepping, driving, etc. you devote nearly two and a half hours a day getting to and from your job. But it doesn’t count for anything. All the “orb report” shows is you weren’t at your workstation banging away at whatever you do by 8:00 AM sharp.
Paul in Engineering was cool enough to create an applet (Associate Time Management, or ATM) so associates can track their time in the office. You check yours and you’re already 25 minutes in the hole. And you realize again, it’s only Tuesday.
The rest of the week progresses along much the same lines. You orb in and out every time you go in and out the office door, whether it’s for lunch, to go check the mail, grab something you forgot in your car, or even to use the bathroom. All those precious minutes are being tracked in the system. Come Friday, around 2:00, you check ATM and see that now you’re 45 minutes behind on your time. Grooooooooan. According to the official company mandate, all salaried employees are expected to put in 40 hours each week, regardless of your work load at the time. So, you’ll be hanging around till close to 6:00 tonight, refreshing that damn applet every few minutes.
Winter rolls around and, after a particularly nasty storm during the night, you poke your head out the door to see nine inches of snow covered by four inches of ice on your driveway. And it’s still coming down at a good clip. Nope, not gonna take the chance driving in this stuff, especially since it’s forecasted to keep going through the late afternoon. Just not worth it. But you only have one more personal day left. Do you use it now, or save it for when the flu starts making its rounds? But then again, you’ve got a helluva lot of work to do, and can’t afford to lose ground there. You can’t stay home and not take a personal day, but you could really use the quiet time to finally finish up that project you’ve been working on. You decide to take the personal day, but you tell yourself you’ll be damned if you’re going to do any work while using that last precious personal day, all while in the back of your mind you’re thinking you’re just going to be that much farther behind on your project.
Yup, that’s how life used to be like at MeetingMatrix. Okay, I’ll admit, I’m trying to paint it a little darker than it really was. I truly enjoyed working at MeetingMatrix in those days, mostly because the people are great. But the daily drudgery is kind of along the right lines. I used to say that “work really gets in the way of your life,” and to a certain degree it does. But, of course, you can’t survive without a job, so what to do?
Let me take a moment now to introduce our CEO and president, Jmîchaeĺe Keller. He’s also the owner of the company, so he can pretty much do what he wants. He had a lifestyle where he sold his home, bought a luxury motor coach, fully equipped with all the latest technology, and tooled around the country, conducting business from wherever – and whenever – suited him.
He long supported the routine described above. Keep in mind that MMI is a company wherein the majority of associates work remotely, away from the Portsmouth, New Hampshire office. But, if you lived in close proximity to the NH office, you were expected to go to the office on a daily basis.
Then one day, I get an email in my Inbox. The subject of it alluded to something pretty damn interesting, some sort of radical new concept for the workplace. Of course, I drop everything and read it. It was from Jmîchaeĺe and sent to one member of each department in the company. Within the body, there was the opening line of “What if you could work wherever and whenever you wanted, as long as the work gets done?” He then asked each of us to ponder this idea in preparation for a meeting to be scheduled at a later date.
Huh?!?!? What the hell was this? Is this some kind of bad joke? What’s he up to? I quickly look at the other names in the To: field and realize most of them don’t have the opportunity to work from home. Of course, I begin to ponder this pretty hard, with visions of me kicking back on the deck plugging away at my laptop on warm, dry days. Oh boy, this could be very interesting.
To be continued...