One way to achieve a work-life balance and still get a promotion: pretend you are working when you’re not.
Over at the New York Times, Neil Irwin writes about a new study by Boston University’s Erin Reid that found many people who “faked” being workaholics and got rewarded like they were actually doing as much work as those who put in 80-90 hours a week of face time at the office.
Reid studied a management consulting firm, which has an on-all-the-time office culture. Irwin writes that, “some people fully embraced this culture and put in the long hours, and they tended to be top performers. Others openly pushed back against it, insisting upon lighter and more flexible work hours, or less travel; they were punished in their performance reviews.”
And then there was a third group. From Irwin:
Some 31 per cent of the men and 11 per cent of the women whose records Ms. Reid examined managed to achieve the benefits of a more moderate work schedule without explicitly asking for it.
They made an effort to line up clients who were local, reducing the need for travel. When they skipped work to spend time with their children or spouse, they didn’t call attention to it. One team on which several members had small children agreed among themselves to cover for one another so that everyone could have more flexible hours.
This is just a single study of a single company, but even so, there seem to be two things of note to take away:
First, the business world isn’t actually very good at rewarding productivity (or measuring it for that matter). Signalling to your employer that you are always on seems to produce the same results as actually being on all the time. Projected enthusiasm for work seems to be just as important as results.
The second is that the people who took this kind of time off officially — women who arranged to work a reduced schedule after returning from maternity leave, for example, or men who requested paternity leave — were punished for that when it came to performance reviews.
The lesson here seems to be don’t ask for time off, just do it quietly and hope no one notices. Lean out, but loudly talk about how much you lean in.