Finding Time : How Corporations, Individuals, and Families Can Benefit from New Work Practices

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Overview

Why do Americans work so hard? Are the long hours spent at work really necessary to increase organizational productivity? Leslie A. Perlow documents the worklife of employees who assume that for their own success and the success of their organization they must put in extended hours on the job. Perlow doesn't buy it. She challenges the basic assumption that the more employees work, the better the corporation will do.For nine months, Perlow studied the work practices of a product development team of software engineers at a Fortune 500 corporation. She reports her findings in detailed stories about individual employees and in more analytic chapters. Perlow first describes the individual heroics necessary to succeed in the existing work culture. She then explains how the system of rewards perpetuates crises and continuous interruptions,while discouraging cooperation. Finally, she shows how the resulting work practices damage both organizational productivity and the quality of individuals' lives outside of work. Perlow initiated a collaborative effort to restructure the way team members worked. Managers who were involved credit the project for the rare and important on-time launch of the product the engineers were developing. In the end, Finding Time shows that it is possible to create new work practices that enable individuals to have more personal and family time while also improving the corporation's productivity.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There is often a negative effect on family life when professionals work long hours. Perlow sets out to determine if, in spite of the personal consequences, the corporation benefits when professionals work long hours. . . . The book tells the sad tale of a workforce that suffers the consequences of long hours under the assumption that accommodation to work demands will bring both personal and corporate success. . . . The author concludes that with long work hours there is so much wasted time through interruptions, time taken to help others or to be helped, and a constant crisis mentality that no one benefits. Perlow gives advice for improving the situation, including a shift from individual to team achievement."—Booklist

"Using single men, working mothers and working fathers as examples, Perlow presents employees' chronicles in which they detail everything they do from when they get up to arrival at the office to lunchtime to going to bed. . . . While there are real difficulties—working mothers, rather than fathers, still have more responsibilities at home and will stay home with a sick child—there are also issues of perception. Driven, successful people are perceived to work long hours, to expand their workdays to include formal and impromptu discussions. So, while some employees requested flexible schedules, flextime seemed to hinder an employee's chances for promotion. . . . As a portrait of what is an all-too-common situation—employees finding there aren't enough hours in the day to meet their work and family demands—this is an interesting portrait."—Publishers Weekly

"It's not how hard you work, it's how you work—this is the idea of Finding Time. . . As long as 'efficiency and effectiveness are simply not valued to the same degree as physical presence and sacrifices in life outside of work,' Perlow suggest, both corporation and employees will suffer."—Judith Newman, New York Times Book Review

"This book is an elegant and readable argument for consideration of a real and contemporary social problem."—Monash MT Eliza Business Review

"Perlow is an excellent storyteller. She captivates her readers through vivid and poignant accounts of the lives of the engineers, at times letting the anguished voices of the spouses be heard. . . . This well-written book addresses an important issue in today's workplace where people are being asked to work both harder and smarter. . . . Finding Time is worthwhile reading for a number of audiences. For researchers, it provides an excellent example of qualitative research. In addition, this book reminds individuals who are involved in implementing flexible work policies that, to be effective, such policies should be consistent with the organization's reward structure and cultural norms. It suggests to managers that they may wish to rethink their notions of productivity and what makes for a productive employee. For individuals whose work requires both individual effort and interaction with others, this book offers an innovative and practical solution for combating constant interruptions. Finally, to all of us, . . . this book presents an interesting opportunity to reconsider our personal definitions of success and what (or who) we are willing to sacrifice in the process of achieving success. Why win the (rat) race if there is no one at the finish line with you?"—Personnel Psychology

"Perlow's evidence from her extensive fieldwork for this book is reason enough to read it. . . . Finding Time will give the reader a close look at engineering work inside a large corporation and much to think about. The book is accessible to a broad range of readers, and it would be useful in graduate and undergraduate courses on work-related matters."—Clifford L. Staples, Review of Radical Political Economics, September 1999

"Perlow's book goes beyond the usual 'solutions' to work/family conflicts to offer innovative and practical solutions that benefit both men and women at work and at home."—Joanne Martin, Stanford University (Business)

"This study makes explicit a set of time dynamics that have been tough to grasp. The result is a vivid portrait of the vicious circles that often undermine our naive belief that time is something we can manage."—Karl Weick, University of Michigan

"In her brilliant, qualitative study of the high pressure work culture of engineers, Leslie Perlow gives us a picture of workers in a chronic sense of crisis, pelted by interruptions and too busy to help colleagues. This work culture sucks time out of workers' home lives, and—here's the surprise—it also hurts the bottom line. This is must reading for anyone who manages workers, and for any worker who's managed."—Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Perlow, an assistant professor at the Univ. of Michigan business school, spent four years under the auspices of the Ford Foundation, studying the work habits of engineers at Ditto, a pseudonymous Fortune 500 company. She starts by examining the structure of Ditto and how its employees work together. Using single men, working mothers and working fathers as examples, Perlow presents employees' chronicles in which they detail everything they do from when they get up to arrival at the office to lunchtime to going to bed. Several employees also discuss how they spend their time, both at the office and at home, as they juggle the responsibilities of work and their personal life. While there are real difficultiesworking mothers, rather than fathers, still have more responsibilities at home and will stay home with a sick childthere are also issues of perception. Driven, successful people are perceived to work long hours, to expand their workdays to include formal and impromptu discussions. So, while some employees requested flexible schedules, flextime seemed to hinder an employee's chances for promotion. Perlow offers some suggestions for improving employee productivityby having employees specify certain hours for "interactive" time and "quiet" time. However, most workers were unable to adhere to these strategies, in part because of the continuing pressure to be seen as accessible. As a portrait of what is an all-too-common situationemployees finding there aren't enough hours in the day to meet their work and family demandsthis is an interesting portrait. However, the suggestions for change fall short. Jan.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801484452
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1997
  • Series: Collection on Technology and Work Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.72 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface
Introduction: The Case against Long Work Hours 1
Pt. I Life in the Fast Lane 9
1 Organizational Superstar: Max's Story 15
2 Ideal Female Employee: Laura's Story 23
3 Individual Heroics: Criteria for Success 33
4 Home Life: Tradeoffs between Work and Family 45
Pt. II How Work Really Gets Done 57
5 Help and Helping: Matt's and Sarah's Stories 61
6 Constant Interruptions: Misuses of Time 73
7 Crisis Mentality: Rhythms of Work 87
8 Vicious Work Time Cycle: A Major Impediment to Corporate Productivity 95
Pt. III The Possibility of Change 99
9 Flexible Work Options Fall Short: Kate's Story 103
10 Potential for Collective Change: Quiet Time 115
11 New Work Practices: Benefits for Corporations, Individuals, and Families 129
Afterword: Two Years Later 137
Methodological Appendix: A Research Tale 141
References 149
Index 153
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