I was reading some interesting research today on the prevalence of presenteeism in the modern workplace. The research looked at how important being seen at the office can be to ones career prospects. They identified two main types of presenteeism:
- Expected face time - This is the time you're expected to put in. It's your usual office hours. It matters because it creates an impression of you as someone dependable and dutiful.
- Extracurricular face time - This is the extra stuff you put in, like coming into the office early or staying late. If you do this then you're seen as committed and dedicated.
The interesting thing is though that most of the biases applied by managers are unconscious ones. Managers are literally creating these character traits without realising it. The research showed that managers were 25% more likely to rate an employee as dedicated if they were seen in the office outside of their contracted hours.
Tips for flexible workers
It is sad that such biases exist, but we live in the real world rather than the ideal world, so what can those of us working in a social business do to improve perceptions of us?
The report makes a number of recommendations.
- When in the office, be extra visible. Point out to colleagues and supervisors when you do things such as miss lunch and breaks in order to meet a deadline. Meet with the supervisor whenever in the office to make sure he sees you, and you can update him on what you have accomplished.
- Get others to talk you up. Talk to your peers and supervisors when you see them. Make sure they know who you are and say a little about what you are working on. The more they see you, the better they will remember you at appraisal time.
- Utilise ‘virtual’ face time to level the playing field. Keep in mind that you are competing against employees usually working in the physical workplace; thus, to boost your workplace standing to ensure you’re not unfairly overlooked, try some of the following:
- Make regular phone or email status reports
- Send email early or late in the day
- Be immediately available
Of course, if you're a manager, by far the best way to manage employees is to focus purely on their output rather than their input. Doing this will let you avoid making trait based evaluations and judge people purely on the work they do rather than on the work you think they do.