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When I was young I spent a summer working in a glass factory. It made bottles of all types. The shifts were 12 hrs at a time, from 7 am to 7pm or vice versa. Breaks, lunch and station changes were scheduled to the minute. They have places like this in hell.

Jobs where employees are essentially commodities, interchangeable with each other and easy to replace (think unskilled labour in factories, call centres, low level office jobs) require strict hours of operation, extreme scheduling and clock punching. Though the use of innovative approaches to labourers’ compensation can change this reality, every manufacturing firm can’t be Lincoln Electric.

But in the knowledge economy of today a reasonable number of us don’t perform menial tasks. Folks still have to follow a schedule in many  cases. For instance, an equities trader needs to be around when the market is open.

Being present and scheduled, however, should not be a requirement for members of the “creative class”. This term denotes a group comprised of university profs, scientists, and, to quote Richard Florida, also “includes people in design, education, arts, music and entertainment, whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology and/or creative content.” Marketers and PR people are thus very much a part of this cadre.

Creating new content/ideas/technology requires immense amounts of heavy mental lifting and hard work. It does not, however, require being in one place between Hour X and Hour Y. In fact, forced clock punching a la factory labour may impede the development of the very things the creative class is paid to create.

Fortunately the walls of the 9 to 5 universe are tumbling down. As a manager of a creative class team you need to remember what message you send your employees when you say “Be here between Hour X and Hour Y.”

You are essentially telling them, “Create within parameters because we don’t trust you to work unconstrained.” Nobody forced Picasso to do this.

This message will be understood LOUD AND CLEAR by your people. One or more of the following will occur:

  • The work produced by your creative workers will be of lesser quality
  • You will not be able to hire top level creative class talent.
  • You will not be able to retain high end creative class talent

Any of the above, by its ownself, will make you less competitive. If all of the above become reality, bonne chance.

Realize that company policies, especially things like hours/schedules, are a form of internal communication. They send a message about the way a firm views its employees.

Delineating clear benchmarks re output and conducting regular performance reviews based on these measures means that you will not have to run your creators like line workers in a factory. Absent these measures welcome to the Chrysler plant!

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