Where is the number one place you go to get work done? Chances are this isn’t the office but instead, it’s a spare room or some other location that’s quiet. I’m late to the party but I just listened to a great TED Talk by Jason Fried, best-selling author of the book ReWork. Here are the four reasons he suggests why work doesn’t happen at work.
1. We All Work Best Differently
We all work best at different places and different times. Some of us work best in the mornings whilst others work best at night.
For me, I know that just after my morning coffee is when I’m at my most creative, so I’ll use this time to zone out from the noise around me and get focused on my most important or difficult task on the day.
Remote working and flexible working practices continue to grow in popularity as organisations adapt to the needs of their employees.
But just because you’re working from home or in another country, does not mean you’re not getting work done.
In fact, many remote workers will be more productive and produce better work as they’ll be in a place where they can focus better.
Plus, they don’t have to worry about the stresses of commuting such as missing trains or being stuck in traffic!
“Remote working is one of the most revolutionary business trends of recent years, and has given rise to a host of technologies that provide a more intuitive working experience, improve employee productivity and unshackle people from the office.”
Mark Greenaway, Adobe
People tend to work best in a long period of uninterrupted and focused time which is rare to find in modern day open-plan offices where multiple meetings and interruptions pop up throughout the day.
On average, we work 6-8 hours per day. But we rarely get long periods of time where we can just focus on one task.
We’re often hit with unwanted distractions that we cannot prevent such as a peer asking us a question, another task that needs attention or those dreaded meetings that Colin insists on calling every few days!
Add in phone calls, emails, coffee breaks, lunch breaks and toilet breaks and before you know it, it’s time to head home without accomplishing as much as you had set out to at the start of the day.
Distractions can be categorised into two categories — voluntary distractions such as social media which we can choose when and if we want to engage in and involuntary distractions such as managers and meetings (M&Ms).
The worst cause of distraction according to Jason — M&Ms!
Managers and meetings get in the way of your productivity.
Imagine this scenario, you’re focused on an important task and suddenly your manager calls you away for an update or a chat. When you return, you’ll have lost your focus on the task-in-hand and productivity dips as a result. Managers are serious interrupters.
Meetings (sorry Colin) are another productivity drain. Jason describes them as “toxic, terrible, poisonous things”.
In my experience, most of the time, they’ll run on too long or people will arrive late or unprepared, and sometimes the meeting will have no purpose or be something that could have been resolved with a quick chat (online or offline) between two or three people.
They’re expensive for an organisation to run as they take up multiple people’s time, interrupt their focus and usually accomplish very little.
4. Work is Like Sleep
Jason draws comparisons between work and the five stage of sleep and it makes perfect sense as an analogy.
It takes a while for you to fall into a deep sleep and if you hear a noise during the night, your sleep gets disrupted. You then have to go back to the start of the sleep process and you’ll usually wake up feeling less rested in the morning. Bummer!
Your work behaves in a similar way. If you’re working on a task or project and you’re constantly getting distracted, you have to start again before you regain your focus.
“Would you expect someone to sleep well if they were interrupted during the night? Of course not, but then why do we expect people to work well in an office, if they’re being interrupted all day?”
Proposed Solutions to the Problem
Jason proposes three solutions to reduce the impact of the distractions we face at work:
- Have one Thursday each month where no one in the office can talk to each other.
- Replace meetings with more passive forms of communication such as email, instant messaging and team collaboration software.
- Cancel the meeting and see what happens as a result.
I hope you found some of the points raised in this post interesting and thought-provoking.
Here’s the full TED Talk if you want to check it out… Gotta go, Colin has called another meeting!!!
Work Smarter, Not Harder
We here at Tameday are big believers in working smarter, not harder. We designed our project management and collaboration tool to allow teams to cut out distractions and get more done in less time. Get started today for free.