When Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO and newest board member, said that she leaves the office every day at 5:30 pm to have dinner with her children, the news was met with a combination of shock and awe.

Sandberg Makes it Home for Dinner. Can You?

At a time when the 60+ workweek is considered a necessity for career advancement in certain industries, Sandberg’s call to limit hours spent at the office had a lot of women questioning if they too could have a high-profile, high-impact job and still make it home in time for dinner.

The Power of Face Time

A 2010 study by Human Relations supports many employees’ suspicions that those who stay late at the office are perceived as more committed and more valuable to the company than their colleagues who leave the office on time. The study states, “Managers in corporate settings use face time to judge employees’ work contributions, creating a disadvantage for employees who are seen less often or are not seen as putting in adequate overtime.”

So, it is no surprise that many employees worry that being the first to leave the office may put their jobs in jeopardy – especially in a time of economic insecurity when most workers are anxious about keeping their jobs.

Reward Value, Not Face Time

What Sandberg is emphasizing is that most women with children don’t require reduced work hours. What women need is more flexibility in how they structure their work day. In order for companies to retain and support high-performing women executives, managers must place the emphasis on results, not on face time, and work on eliminating the stigma attached to flextime.

Changing a corporation’s culture is always slow-moving. It is much easier to count up an employee’s hours than determine their worth, but as work is becoming more mobile and high-profile figures such as Sandberg are calling for more flexibility in how the workday is built, leaders must recognize that what matters most is results, not face time.

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