Punch in, punch out!

Dana Al-Rashid

He wakes up early in the morning, and heads straight to work – no breakfast, not even coffee. Of course! For he doesn’t like to be late to work – he actually prefers coming earlier than the official timings. He drives like a madman and somehow makes it to work in one piece. He looks at the empty offices around him, hearing the sound of nothingness. He then rushes to the “digital witness” – a device that proves how disciplined he is by registering his fingerprint every day at a certain time. He presses his thumb on this magical device, then disappears! He flashes a victorious smile, for he has tricked the system. He goes back to his warm bed, and dreams on.

A little later in the day, a fresh, new employee roams around the workplace – where the offices are still empty and uncomfortably quiet. As the days pass, his enthusiasm wears off. He begins to show apathetic behavior as well, because nothing ever happens here! It seems that the “punch in, punch out” culture is quite contagious!

Our good old employee finally wakes up from his sleep. Well, what do you know? There’s still some time left! He takes off his pajamas and wears something more appropriate for an outing. He drives his fancy car aimlessly, and somehow ends up in a large shopping mall. He notices that there are many people of his kind here! He jokingly tells his friends: “It seems that we all work in the mall!”
He ends the outing with a very filling lunch, then heavily heads back to work, making sure that nobody sees him, especially his supervisor and his more serious colleagues. He punches out, and as simple as that, his workday has ended. This was a brief description of an average day in the life of many, many employees working for the government sector in Kuwait.

At the end of the month, he enjoys his full salary, with no deductions whatsoever! His colleague, however, gets a deducted salary even though he is a hardworking, dedicated employee who never skips a day. Why? It is simply because he comes a little late in the morning for reasons out of his hands – such as family commitments and traffic. You see, in the end it’s all about the fingerprint!

What is the cause of this rather bizarre phenomenon? Well, while the employee is most definitely held responsible for not attending and completing his tasks – it does seem like it’s a symptom of a larger problem. A clear, defined system in which employees are expected and encouraged to be productive and efficient, with firm consequences if they are not, is the obvious solution. But, how to implement it and break the old cycle of comfortable complacency? That is the question!

By Dana Al-Rashid
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