New Manager

‘Time on work’ more vital than ‘time in office’

Niharika M | Updated on January 24, 2018

Shirish Deodhar, CEO, Sapience Analytics

Sapience Analytics CEO says that improving work-time helps firms operate at peak efficiency

Shirish Deodhar, founder and CEO of Sapience Analytics, in mailed responses to The New Manager, outlined his company’s patent-pending software product that helps build ‘A Mindful Enterprise’ for employees to achieve significant productivity improvements coupled with greater work-life harmony.

How did you come to focus on such a niche area of work productivity in firms?

Sapience Analytics was founded in 2009. We decided to build a solution that provides automated effort visibility and helps optimise the performance of global teams. ‘Time/Effort’ at work is the most important currency (after ‘cash’) at companies today, yet, while financial planning and tracking is done diligently, there are no business tools available that help measure the effort. This is even more of a challenge in today’s changing work environment, which includes a 24x7 and ‘work-from-anywhere’ lifestyle, and teams that are at distributed locations or outsourced to different vendors.

There are no accurate and objective methods to assess team-effort (supply side). Business results and employee well-being are being significantly impacted by sub-optimal effort, but without the right tool, it is not possible to accurately assess baseline the quality of effort and initiate improvements.Having built the early version by 2010, we were surprised to note that there existed no equivalent product globally.

This was a unique situation to be in, and we decided to leverage the first mover advantage and try and build an Indian software product business in an environment where IT is still about providing software services to global customers.

Are firms enthusiastic to take stock of their work environment? What kind of misconceptions are disproved by your analysis?

In the past several years, revenue growth and profitability at Indian IT and ITes companies have declined. Billing rates are under pressure while costs keep increasing.

Global customers are more focused on value rather than mere cost arbitrage. Hence, productivity and innovation are now becoming centre-stage in Indian companies. In a bid to achieve this, organisations are implementing regressive policies like blocking internet access, extending office hours to nine-and-a-half hours and using swipe cards to verify time in/out of the office.

Organisations tend to assume that if employees are spending long hours in office, they must be very productive. From an employee perspective, work-life balance is increasingly under stress due to the extended office timings, 24x7 work lifestyle, long commutes, increasing pressure from customers and management, and their own desire to excel.

Recent reports have shown that the average age of employees has risen from 22-24 to 28-30 in the past few years. They are more likely to be married and with children, and hence averse to spending long hours in office. These two fundamental challenges may appear contradictory, but Sapience has been successfully able to reconcile them. It helps deliver 20 per cent and more increase in organisation productivity, while providing employees with a platform for mindful work which helps them achieve more at work with reduced stress.

And, how have you been able to achieve that through your software solution?

Sapience has revealed several interesting insights: ‘Time on work’ is more important than physical ‘time in office’. Sapience automatically discovers actual work time through the day, whether in office or at home. A surprising discovery is that the Top 20 per cent of employees are usually delivering 3-4 hours of more work than the bottom 20 per cent, despite spending similar or maybe 1-1.5 hours more in office. The gap between the top 20 per cent work-time and the others is often not the fault of the employees.

Managers often turn to their favourites when there is an emergency or important work. As a result, few team members are overloaded, while the rest are not so busy and don’t feel as engaged with the company. It is no wonder that attrition levels are high.

At today’s large campuses, employees spend lot of time taking the elevator and walking lost distances for meetings in other buildings, lunch and the multiple tea/coffee breaks. The cafeteria services have been optimized at the cost of their most valuable asset – employee time. It is time to bring back the pantry on each floor. When implemented effectively, Sapience’s solution will result in an organisation operating at peak efficiency, and employees enjoying work-life harmony.

What is ‘the mindful enterprise’ and what advantages do you see for a firm in being one?

A mindful enterprise has three characteristics: a credo of excellence derived from the entire organisational being aligned to its vision and execution strategy; informed decision-making wherein performance and progress is assessed objectively, and lastly more engaged and secure employees because they know where the company is headed and have trust in the system because of its transparency. Today’s knowledge-based organisations are an aggregation of its talent pool.

Sapience promotes mindfulness at work. Employees become more conscious about how they work, and learn to make highly personalised adjustments that yield the most benefits.

The end objectives are to achieve personal excellence at work, while working reasonable hours, and ensuring sufficient time for family and friends.

Our innovative concept of Sapience Work Yoga is a set of best practices that guides employees to have stretches of focused effort, smart-task rather than multi-task, and optimise how they spend time on emails and meetings.

What insights did you gain when you sliced the data based on gender and age?

With over 60 customers and one 1 lakh users in eight 8 countries, Sapience has analysed over 17 million work hours in the past four 4 years. We have many interesting findings:

- 5-10 per cent of the employees typically spend 10-plus+ hours in office and 7-plus on work, while a large number average 8-9 hours in office and less than 5 hours on work. The former can improve work-life balance by optimising office time to 9 hours and still deliver 7-plus work hours, while the latter need to be more focused on work.

- There are big differences between big enterprises and small companies, cities and small towns, in-city and offices located in SEZs, gender, and countries (India, China, the US). On average, smaller firms with quality leadership show high work time, the US is significantly ahead of China which in turn is better than India, and women tend to be more efficient in their use of office time.

- More than 40 per cent of work time is spent on emails and meetings even at relatively junior levels, especially in large companies. Less than two-and-a-half 2.5 hours of work time is on core activities like development, testing, support and so on. An increase of even 30 minutes results in improved delivery results.

- Rapid switching between different activities is a major reason for productivity loss and stress at work. Sapience data confirms the trend of shorter attention spans. E-.mails, browsing, calls and breaks are the primary distractions. Sapience measured that on average employees switch from one activity to another every 5-7 minutes.

Published on January 20, 2015

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