Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Work Locations

A very simple question, how do you judge how long somebody spends in the office? That question is not being asked in a negative sense, the professional working environment is typically one of salaried management who all work more than their contractual hours anyway, and there is no question of anyone getting a penalty. But purely for practical positive need, for example to objectively assess who most warrants limited office facilities, it might be useful to judge who spends most time using the base office versus time in other offices and other sites.

The obvious measure might be to record daily hours. But as stated above, salaried professional managers tend to work far more than official hours and they do not track their time on an hourly basis anyway. So we can look for other proxy measures of base office time.

The starting point could be a holiday and sickness report from the HR/Personnel department. That would have the basic number of days worked per year, though it would not say the working location.

One way to get that location might be to look at calendars. In a networked Office environment, it should be fairly clear who spends time in the home location, in meetings or in conference calls. But the calendar is only a plan of activity, it does not reflect the locations where working time is actually spent.

And if we simply ask people individually, apart from the subjective bias thus introduced, we should consider the responders' motivations and incentives. If there is a benefit to claiming more base office time, for example to justify better placed locations, then there will be a tendency for people to over-estimate that time. Most measures such as those I mentioned above are either incentive-neutral or equally prone to over-representation. Perhaps we need a measure that has the opposite intrinsic incentive.

Maybe look at travel expenses. Those who claim regular trips away from the base office probably have less need for base office facilities than those who do not.


Rana said...

Any similarity to actual offices is purely coincidence. The economic issue is to look for objective measures with intrinsic tendencies to self-balance.

Anonymous said...

I think you're trying to test not "in the office" but "at their desk" here.

So...carry out sampling. Ring people on their office landline number at a series of random times, and whoever answers most often is most often at their desk.

You can even let people know that you're doing this, and what number will show up on their phone if it's one of your sampling calls - some people will use that information to prioritise being at their desk / taking your call, and that's fine since people who prioritise signalling that they're at their desk so as to get better desk space probably care about it most and people who aren't able to prioritise for that probably aren't getting much chance to use their desk anyway.

Rana said...

Good point Seamus. It was not so much a practical "what should I do" point, which your argument addresses well, it was more a retrospective "was it right". The expenses idea has too many practical issues to ever be a corporate policy, but I still think the reverse incentives are most interesting there.

Ann Cardus said...

Let me see...need for base office facilities. All people that at some point work from the base office perhaps or is that too simple.

Maybe you meant "who should get the window seats?"

Maybe it should be people with medical conditions affected by light. Maybe it should be those who receive the lowest gross salary, by way of providing alternative compensation. Maybe it should be the people that take the fewest coffee breaks when they are in the office. Maybe it should be the people that spend a lot of their day shut in windowless conference rooms either in their base location or elsewhere. Maybe it should be the oldest. Maybe it should be the youmgest. Maybe it should the people who have the smallest houses/flats. Maybe it should be people that don't have a view from their houses. Maybe it should be the people with the most body odour. Maybe it should be the people who receive the highest merit raises in the prior year. Maybe it should be decided by lottery. Or maybe, just maybe, it should be the people chosen by the boss.

Ann Cardus said...

Just a thought....

Rana said...

These posts are generic, this one was about proxy variables to measure time in office - who gets the window seat is a separate issue ;)