Sunday, May 20, 2012

Litmus test for an Agile company : practicing Sustainable pace



      Nowadays with the advent of  blackberries and smartphones, the work hours are no more restricted to 9 to 5.  These devices can download emails any time any where, and in turn has enabled professionals to work as per their wish. 

According to a recent survey by Neverfail, a software company specializing in data protection,

83 % of professional workers say they check email after work. 
66 % take a smartphone or laptop with them on vacation and
more than 50 % report that they send emails or texts during a meal with family or friends.

It is obvious that checking work related emails at home carries the mental pressure associated at work to private life.  This in turn has triggered more questions than answers. They are..

is this a healthy way of living/working ?    
Should an individual take responsibility to balance work and life ?  
Is there a role that an organization can play here, if so, do they get any benefit out of it ?

Even though the individual has a key role in finding their own work/life balance, I feel that employers have an equal role to play as well in this era of globalization.    Let me share a few researches to support this idea.

Firstly, according to a study by Dov Eden of Tel Aviv’s University’s

Employees who feel compelled to be at the beck and call of work at all times are unlikely to recover from the ill-effects of chronic job stress. This is a causal chain that eventually gets internalized as psychological and behavioural responses that can bring on serious chronic disease.

The employees checking emails during their vacation, will come back to work to get burned out more rather than a relaxed vacation. Burned out employees in turn are less efficient and less productive draining companies resources.

Secondly, as per the famous Predictable time off experiment conducted by BCG, the consultants who had time off felt happier and better at their jobs than those who did not. They were also more efficient. One of the teams that participated in this experiment decreased its average workweek from 65 to 58 hours while accomplishing essentially the same amount. Isn’t this more efficient for the company ?     Today, BCG teams that join the predictable time off program meet regularly to work out schedules so that every member can take an official break from e-mail one night each week, not including weekends.

Keeping in mind some of the above mentioned issues of  workers getting burned out, Volkswagen has programmed its e-mail servers to stop sending messages to many of its German employees after their shifts end.  Isn’t this a good move by such a large company to help their employees and in turn themselves ?

eXtreme Programming(XP) introduced Sustainable pace a long ago. Now it is turn for the truly Agile companies to introduce  programs like Predictable time off, shut down email servers during the weekends to help employee burn out and improve the productivity.  I truly believe that supporting the idea of Scrum or XP or Kanban is not going to make a company Agile, but introducing above ideas is the true litmus test for an Agile company.

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