Workers Better Slow and Steady or Speed Demons?

It’s the age old debate—quality versus quantity. When it comes to your small business, would you rather your employees crank out as much work as possible or take their time?

Peter Bacevice, senior consultant at strategic workplace consulting firm DEGW, part of AECOM argues the tortoise wins this race.

By giving your employees more control over how they work, Bacevice said their well-being and happiness in the workplace will improve. He likens the idea to the “slow food movement,” which is a return to a direct connection to the producers of food. This is in contrast to the constant availability of food, with a focus on the value chain or producing and consuming, he said.

“If we apply the slow food movement to work, it’s about slowing down the consumption of information,” Bacevice said. “The speed of information has a lot of good to it, and you can easily transfer information. But to transfer deep information requires more face-to-face time.”

Slowing down at work allows people to develop deeper connections with one another, and strengthens trust between colleagues, Bacevice argues. The actual work you produce should be judged, not the time you spend on it, he said.

Judi Mickey, senior data analyst and consultant for HR Consultants, Inc., said work pacing is all dependent on the nature of the organization and the industry it resides in.

“It’s about if they have the luxury of creativity or taking time, versus working on deadlines,” Mickey said. “This can go from one extreme to the other, and it’s about determining the optimal balance.”

This balance can be determined by knowing your employees and their personal preferences. Some like to take their time and work at a slower pace, while others thrive under pressure, she said.

Slow work does have a time and place, Bacevice admits. Some work is just not in alignment with this mentality, and it won’t work well for every business all the time.

“This is not to undermine the need to work fast,” he said. “There are times when quick action is necessary. I wouldn’t want an ER team taking their time on me when I am a patient.”

Meetings, e-mails and phone calls are all taken and scheduled with the click of a mouse, often mindlessly. Just as time is scheduled for these tasks, Bacevice said businesses should encourage employees to schedule blocks of time to pace themselves in the office.

“If we don’t block out two or three hours on our calendars to focus on something, it never gets done,” he said. “It’s about being aware when you need to work slowly, when you need to speed it up and when you need to give yourself time.”

Mickey suggests taking metrics of your workers and their productivity after about six months of them being with you. Have good two-way communication and make sure your workers are aware of your expectations and they are aware how their job contributes to the company’s overall success.

“I think a lot of it comes down to their level of frustration,” Mickey said. “I don’t think it’s the pace of the work. I personally thrive under pressure and become more creative. It’s managing the person in the job to produce the results.”

Bacevice said if you trust your employees and give them freedom, your business can only benefit.

“It comes back to the idea of trust,” Bacevice said. “At an organization where there is trust that people will get their work done and delivery quality work, you trust them to make decisions about when to work which way.”