We’ve all heard the quotes about how hard work brings you success. There may even be some of those motivational posters in your office copy room – you know, the ones with the rowers or some cool scenery with a BIG WORD and then a phrase underneath. The biggest problem with the current notion of success and how it pertains to work, is that the idea is the more you work, the more success you will have. In many cases, however, this isn’t true. In fact, often the more you work, the less you get done. When we first decided to make a go of owning a business, we made a standard work week with standard hours. During tax season, we extended the daily hours and added a Saturday work day. The thinking was natural. We’d been programmed through the years to think that more was more and less was less. If our preparers had more work hours, we’d get more returns done and reap more profit. Right?
Then we started tracking the data. What we discovered was that proportionate to the work hours, less work was getting done. We were paying more out for employee wages and our profit margins were shrinking. But why? The answer was as simple as it was radical. People work less efficiently when they: 1) perceive that they have “time to get it done” and 2) have less time to downshift and relax their minds.
Once we realized this, we changed to a regular work week during tax season, and shortened up our daily hours. Saturday became optional, depending on what you needed to get done. We shortened our week during non-peak season days to four days. And we asked each preparer to be responsible for their own workload. It was a risk.
But what we discovered is that when people felt responsible, had freedom and flexibility, and got to go home and de-stress, they wanted to work harder, more efficiently and everything was smoother. Our wage margin went down and our profit margin went up. The office stress was less and everyone was happier.
So while the traditional definition of success is determined by “hard work” and “long hours,” maybe success should be determined by how good you feel at the end of the day.