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Management article
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Reference no. R0910M
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 2009
Length: 12 pages

Abstract

People in professional services believe a 24/7 work ethic is essential for getting ahead - and so they work 60-plus hours a week and stay tethered to their BlackBerrys. This perpetuates a vicious cycle: responsiveness breeds the need for more responsiveness. When people are always ''on'', responsiveness becomes ingrained in the way they work, expected by clients and partners, and even institutionalized in performance metrics. There is no impetus to question whether the work actually requires 24/7 responsiveness; on the contrary, people work harder and longer, without stopping to explore how they could work better. But four years of research conducted by the authors in several North American offices of the Boston Consulting Group suggests that consultants and other professionals can provide the highest standards of service and still have planned, uninterrupted time off. They can do this even in times of recession. In this article, Perlow and Porter outline the lessons from BCG''s implementation of predictable time off - namely, impose a strict mechanism for taking days and nights off, encourage lots of talk about what''s working and what isn''t, promote experimentation with different ways of working, and insist on top-level support.

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Abstract

People in professional services believe a 24/7 work ethic is essential for getting ahead - and so they work 60-plus hours a week and stay tethered to their BlackBerrys. This perpetuates a vicious cycle: responsiveness breeds the need for more responsiveness. When people are always ''on'', responsiveness becomes ingrained in the way they work, expected by clients and partners, and even institutionalized in performance metrics. There is no impetus to question whether the work actually requires 24/7 responsiveness; on the contrary, people work harder and longer, without stopping to explore how they could work better. But four years of research conducted by the authors in several North American offices of the Boston Consulting Group suggests that consultants and other professionals can provide the highest standards of service and still have planned, uninterrupted time off. They can do this even in times of recession. In this article, Perlow and Porter outline the lessons from BCG''s implementation of predictable time off - namely, impose a strict mechanism for taking days and nights off, encourage lots of talk about what''s working and what isn''t, promote experimentation with different ways of working, and insist on top-level support.

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