By Alexandra DeFelice
On occasion when I visit a small community, I'll pass a local business with a sign on the door that reads",Gone for Lunch, Be Back at 1" or "On Vacation, Will Return Monday."
Must be nice to dictate your own schedule and not be tied to your office in fear you'll lose money, clients, and credibility if you aren't working around the clock.
That's not a bitter statement, just the harsh truth.
Well, this month, Roberta Salas, marketing director at Atkinson & Co. LTD, an accounting and consulting firm in New Mexico, reminded me that those little signs are available to anyone who wants them.
In fact, Salas purchased thirty plastic clocks for her staff to hang on their doors and cubicles. The hands are adjustable with "Available At" on the top – just like those signs I envy so much.
The idea came to Salas a few years ago when Liz Davenport, author of Order from Chaos: A 6-Step Plan for Organizing Yourself, Your Office, & Your Life, spoke at the firm's all-staff meeting about time management.
One of Davenport's suggestions was to set a designated time for everyone in the firm to work uninterrupted. Salas, who also works in the firm's HR department, admitted that implementing an across-the-board mandated quiet time was not realistic. However, many employees had talked to her about how much they were able to accomplish when they arrived to the office early or stayed late, presumably because fewer people were present to disturb them.
Salas thought there must be a way to expand that productive time into the traditional workday.
Enter the plastic clock signs.
Sure, some of the staff mocked the idea at first, but once some of them started using the signs, more and more employees – from bookkeepers to partners – began acknowledging that those clocks really help.
"It's hard to get time alone. Closing your door doesn't cut it", Salas said. "For the most part, people won't bother you [when the signs are up]. Visitors who want to chitchat will wait."
One of the main reasons Salas believes this approach caught on was because Davenport presented the idea to everyone in the firm simultaneously, so there was no need to plan separate departmental meetings to discuss the idea and try to solicit approval from senior management.
Furthermore, it was an individual choice to participate, so Salas didn't have to follow up to ensure everyone was meeting their goals.
"You can get on board and really work this, or pick up a couple of things", Salas said.
Or you could just stare at those signs in envy, wishing you had more control of your day.
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Alexandra DeFelice is senior manager of communication and program development for Moore Stephens North America, and a regional member of Moore Stephens International, a network of more than 360 accounting and consulting firms with nearly 650 offices in almost 100 countries. Atkinson & Co. is an independent accounting firm associated with MSNA. Alexandra can be reached at [email protected].