When members of 12 consulting teams at Boston Consulting Group were each required to take a block of "predictable time off" during every work week, "we had to practically force some professionals" to get away, says Leslie Perlow, the Harvard Business School leadership professor who headed the study.
Requiring hard-driving consultants to take time off was "nerve-racking" and awkward at first, says Debbie Lovich, a Boston Consulting executive who headed one of the teams. Some fought the idea, claiming they would have to work more on weekends or draw poor performance ratings.
Ms. Lovich adds: "We wanted to teach people that you can tune out completely" for a while and still turn out good work. The work itself became the focus, "because if you know a night of is coming up, you're not going to let things spike out of control," she says.
Working together to make sure each consultant got some time off forced teams to communicate better, share more personal information and forge closer relationships. They also had to do a better job at planning ahead and streamling work, which in some cases resulted in improved client service, based on interviews with clients.
As word spread, other consultants began asking to join the study, Ms. Lovich says. And some clients told researchers the teams' work had improved, partly because improved communication among team members kept junior consultants better informed about the big picture.
Other companies are putting the brakes on work in other ways. At KPMG, a professional-services firm, managers use "wellness scorecards" to track whether employees are working too much overtime or skipping vacation, a spokesman says. At Fenwick & West, a Silicon Valley law firm, "workflow coordinators" review attorneys' hours to avert overload.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2009 / Thanks to Coach John G. Agno