IPMA International Project Management Association
29 June 2016 / 9:51

Working time sovereignty in projects

The increasing number of projects in our society (“Projectification”) is rapidly changing the working conditions for us and all people engaged. Projects are non-routine work, which has a massive impact on all aspects of work. Firstly, the way of working changes. A separate organisation will be established, flexible work arrangements by using project management methodology and self-organizing are in place, the location of a project manager and her/his team may be out of the regular office, onsite (at the client´s or supplier´s site), always on the move from site to site or at home in a flexible home office arrangement. Secondly, the contractual arrangements may also be different. It could be a normal work contract, a part-time contract or a freelancing arrangement for the duration of the project. Thirdly, the arrangements for working time need to be more flexible than in a “9 to 5” routine job. Especially working in an international context with different time zones require a project manager to have more sovereignty of working time for her/him and the team. A web meeting with all team members across the globe requires a time arrangement, that typically does not fit into a “9 to 5” scheme. Or travelling for a project often does not fit into a routine time schedule. You typically end up with “extra” time and a mix between your leisure and working time. So what is your sovereignty of working time in projects?

An survey in Germany asked project managers and their teams about these issues and provided interesting insights for all of us. One of the most important questions was about what “working time sovereignty” actually means to project managers. The answers were ranked and span from “I can decide myself on my working times” (92%), “I can decide on my own how I perform my tasks” (87%), “I can perform my tasks in my home office” (84%) and “I can do extra time and decide when to use it for leisure activities” (72%). The answer “I do not need to document and proof my working time” (45%) was not considered as important in this context.

What is important for project managers? They ranked their needs in the following order: 1. Interesting and challenging projects; 2. Working time sovereignty; 3. Work-Life-Balance; 4. Personal development (incentives and career) and 5. Salary. Interestingly, the salary ranks only least, this matches with other surveys like GPM´s annual PM Career and Salary Report. However, not all organisations and/or project settings allow the project managers to fulfill their needs. There is an increasing clash between “old” work and HR arrangements of the “routine world” and the challenging work and HR arrangements of project society. My blogposts “HR in the project-oriented organisation” and “Different stages of organisational development during projectification” touch on this. Also legal conditions, the organisational culture (e.g. trust towards people), project goal settings and Key Performance Indicators play a decisive role.

More time sovereignty results in more responsibilities for each one of us to manage our time effectively, it provides more flexibility and allows for more work-life-balance, especially the flexible location of work (in the office, onsite or home office) is something that is challenging but allows for example more women to work in the sphere of projects, combining family duties with the ones of a project. Unfortunately, people in such flexible arrangements do not recognise, how much time they actually spend in projects. Intrinsic motivation drives them into extra time (60,9% of the respondents answered they work more and longer. The question “What would you do if you´d have more working time sovereignty” answered 58,7% with “nothing different”. Interesting new world of work in projects …

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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.