It’s Time to Eliminate Employee Schedules

I first wrote this article over two years ago. At the time, eliminating employee schedules seemed like a crazy idea to many small business leaders. Not so much today.

Here are two conversations I’ve had recently. The first was with my youngest son, Carter, earlier in the summer.

C: Dad, I love my new job.

T: That’s great Carter. What are you doing?

C: The job is with a financial services company, and I have an administrative project that I’m working on. My job is to work my way through a room full of loan packages, keeping some documents and throwing away others.

T: Why is this such a great job?

C: I love this job because of the flexibility. I can create my own schedule. My favorite hours are from midnight until around 5 am. I get a lot of work done with minimal distractions. The best part is that I then have the rest of the day to do what I want. It’s great!


The second conversation was most recently with one of my clients named Bill.

T: Bill, you look frustrated. What’s wrong?

B: I need to fire one of my directors.

T: What’s the issue? Poor performance?

B: No. His performance is fine. The problem is that this director is unable to get to work on time. Our office opens at 8 am, and he is never here on time. He does work late and sometimes on weekends. If he can’t get here on time it’s an issue, and I must address it now. We have an office schedule and he must comply with that schedule.

T: Bill, would you rather manage employee compliance or job performance?

B: We are all about job performance! His job performance is stellar. Now if I could just get him to show up for work on time.


Do either of these conversations sound familiar to you?

I find that many small business owners wish they were having the first conversation and find themselves instead of having the second one.

Why is this? Primarily because it’s the way it’s always been. We’ve always had schedules. Right?

Not necessarily. I did an informal survey of my Vistage members and consulting clients and could not find a single one who worked on a fixed schedule. Not one. They all start working when they’re ready in the morning and keep working until they’re done at night.

Yet, almost all of their employees are on a fixed schedule. Why is this? I believe it comes down to one word – trust.

We don’t trust our employees to perform on their own so we establish work schedules to ensure some level of minimum job performance. And what do we get in return? Some level of minimum job performance. What a surprise.

So here’s my suggestion. Dump the employee work schedule. Forget about managing their hours. That’s compliance. Instead, shift your attention to their work performance. If they can do the job in half the time, great!

Research indicates that the average American worker actually works for slightly over two hours per day on an eight-hour shift. What are they doing the rest of the time? Clearly, there are more important things such as checking social media, Internet shopping, and maybe playing games. So what do we do? Most companies try to prevent such delinquent behavior by forcing their employees to adhere to a schedule. How does that work? Not well.

What if instead, we focus on job performance? We become very clear with our employees about the results we need from them, and then let them set their own schedules. Just like we do for ourselves.

I shared this suggestion with one of my clients and his first response was, “That would mean I would need to be very careful about who I hire. I could only hire people with strong work ethics who I could trust to make their own schedules.”

My response? Yes! We would only hire high-performing trustworthy employees. Wouldn’t that be a great strategy?

I think it’s time to dump the employee schedule. Are you ready?