If you’re still working for a company that requires you to “clock in”, either by physically being in a certain location (like an office) or by using software like Toggl, we feel kind of bad for you.

Because as Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt have explained quite eloquently in the Freakonomics books, incentives matter – and the devil is in the details. If you tell an employee that you’re going to track their hours present, what you’re essentially saying is that you value them spending their time at your office or logged in on time tracking software.

You might think – well, what’s the matter with that?

To understand the issues with the “hours centered work environment”, we have to dive into two very different worldviews: the attitude of an Hour Logger, and the mindset of an A Player

The Attitude of The Hour Logger


The Hour Logger is the kind of person who does just enough work to keep their jobs, without actually investing themselves in their performance. We have a dirty little secret for you: Hour Loggers LOVE rules.

For example, let’s say that you require all of your employees to work 50 hour weeks at the office, by being in the building from 8 am to 6 pm. You’re thinking, “This will really make my staff work hard!”

Not so quick buster. The Hour Hogger is going to be at your office (or logged into time tracking software) for 50 hours alright – but they’re going to be messing around on Instagram half that time, making sure their selfies have the right filters applied.

But wait, you say – you’re going to keep strict supervision of your employees to ensure that no such tomfoolery goes unnoticed. Well, there’s two problems that come up with strict supervision:

  1. The Hour Loggers are masters of stealth anyways. If you install software that watches their computer screens, they’ll use their phones when you’re not looking. Or take extra long bathroom breaks. Or purposefully work, but very slowly because they hate their job and aren’t a good fit for your company (why did you hire this person again?)
  2. Strict supervision creates a corporate culture that screams to your employees, “We don’t trust you”. In case you didn’t know, creating a culture of distrust doesn’t make for successful businesses. And truly valuable, productive employees are going to start job hunting as soon as you start breathing down their necks.

The Mindset of The A Player


A Players are motivated by goals, targets, and growth, both for themselves and your company. These are truly skilled and talented employees who don’t see the sense in working 40+ hours a week just for the sake of the hours.

Sure, they may end up working those hours anyways – but that’s not the point. The point is, If you give them a very important task to do, they’ll try to do it as well as they can, without spending unnecessary time dragging their feet.

These A Players thrive on the ability to choose when and how they do their work. They want to be as productive as possible, and so they’re motivated to choose the environment that works best for them. Whether that’s the office, their home, a cafe, or a great co-working space.

Startup founder Yan Lhert epitomizes the mindset of an A Player, and writes about why he will only be choosing jobs that let him work remotely in a blistering piece titled: “If you don’t trust your employees to work remotely, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place”.

He argues that the best way to get rid of the Hour Loggers and help out the A Players on your team is to embrace a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE).

ROWE Your Business To Success


A ROWE is where employees are paid based on their output instead of their hours worked. While this kind of arrangement is only starting to catch on, it makes much more sense than the old system of hour logging.

Think about this: the “hour logging” system of payment was developed for factory workers who did mindless, repetitive tasks day in and day out. In that scenario, your hours clocked would more or less correlate with your output (but even then, there were A Players who produced more in that time period and Hour Loggers who slacked off.)

For knowledge workers in today’s modern economy, using a payment scheme derived from factory workers just seems ill-advised. Agree with us? Good – let’s dive into some practicalities.

Your First Steps

OK – so let’s say you work at a company that wants to help it’s A Players perform at a higher level.

Here are some steps to getting started with a ROWE:

  1. Define KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for each position on your team. You’ll want about 2-4 KPIs, focusing on both quality and quantity.For example, a customer service rep might be measured by how many emails they answer every 2 weeks and how many of their customers’ issues are solved within one email. A sales rep might be judged based on how many sales calls they have every 2 weeks, and what percentage of those sales close.
  2. Once KPIs are defined, give your employees the freedom to work however they choose – whether that’s from the office, from home, or from a co-working space. Actively encourage your employees to go to coworking spaces by paying for their memberships. Don’t log hours, in any way, shape or form.If this step makes you nervous, that’s a sign that you don’t trust your team all that much. As long as your KPIs are well defined, you need to be willing to take a leap of faith and do an experiment.
  3. Set a timeline of 6 weeks to 3 months, and see what happens. Chances are, your A Players are going to be happier and more productive than ever before, and your Hour Loggers are going to be shifting into B or C players, or getting fired due to their dismal performance.

It’s A New Age of Productivity

We’re living in a global, knowledge based economy that rewards creativity and innovation. Don’t let yourself or your employees be hampered by old mindsets and ways of working that no longer serve you.

Instead, embrace results – and let your employees find their best ways of producing them.