Stealing Time

In a recent conversation, a friend told me they had been reprimanded at their job for “stealing time.” Before this moment, the term was foreign to me. How could one possibly steal time? After further explanation, in the corporate world, if employees are not on tasks while they are clocked-in, it is considered stealing from the company because they are getting paid while not actually doing their job.

Maybe this is the difference between a job where you simply are considered a cog in the machine and a job where you are being paid for your intellectual contribution to the company. (If you haven’t already read “Linchpin” by Seth Godin, I highly recommend it.) I understand the desire of an employer to discipline an employee for not doing the job they are paid for; however, I am making the argument that, sometimes, doing things not in your job description make you better at your job.

For example, a conversation with a co-worker about what they have planned for the weekend may not have a direct benefit to your organization, but maybe it might. First, strong rapport among your employees leads to a better company culture and, hopefully, an overall better place to work. Second, understanding what makes an employee tick outside of work may help you motivate or engage with them better during work hours. And, who knows, maybe something they enjoy on a personal level could directly benefit your clients and, essentially, your bottom line. But you will never know if you are not willing to steal the time.

Below is a list of productive ways to steal time from your company that might just make you a better employer or employee. Don’t get me wrong – prioritizing and accomplishing the tasks you are paid to do is important, but when you have a moment, these might just be ways to add value to the job at hand.

  • Write a blog like this one – It may not directly impact the bottom line of your business, but it strengthens the brand overall.
  • Watch a TED Talk – With thousands of topics to choose from, this might be just the inspiration you need to finish that creative project.
  • Send a thank you note to a client – Relationships are key in the service industry; be sure to feed those relationships on a regular basis.
  • Read a business book – Ok, maybe reading an entire book in one sitting is a little much, but a few pages here and there is worth it if it makes you better at your job.
  • Checking your social media accounts – It’s easy to get sucked in on Facebook, but a few minutes of browsing and reading might just lead you in a new direction on a project.

How can you steal more time to be a better employee? What would you add to this list?

Megan Neri serves as Director of Client Relations at Imagine Communications. Click here to email Megan.

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