When do you work best?
Productivity is a vital, yet often overlooked, aspect of running a successful business. Many businesses pay huge amounts of attention recruiting the best staff and creating a great office space but fail to pay the same attention to providing the flexibility each individual employee needs to be most productive.
Whether you are a one person company or employee thousands of people you expect yourself and your staff to do great work. This often means creating a place for all your employees to come together and do that work – the office.
This seems like a sensible solution and on the whole it is. The problem is that the typical office environment is not a productive place. Ask your staff and yourself:
What location do you go to, and at what time, when you really need to get your work done?
The answer may surprise you. The vast majority of people will not say “the office, between 9am-6pm”. Most people will have a specific location and time that they know is their “productivity zone”. For myself this will be between 10pm and 2am, sat in my office at home with a cup of coffee. During that time I’ll be able to fully concentrate on my work, with no distractions of meeting requests, emails, Instant Messenger etc.
For others their most productive time may be from 6am to 9am at the office before the rest of the team arrives. What is important is that as an individual you recognise your most productive time frames and locations and as a business owner you appreciate that if you want your employees to achieve the targets you set then you are flexible enough to allow them the option of when and where to work.
Now of course it is not always possible to be this flexible every day of the week but it is a great practise to introduce a few times a month.
The main push-back that managers have when discussing this type of flexibility is the fear that the employee will be distracted at home by the TV, house chores, newspapers, or any of the other activities available at home but not in the office. The key point to make here is that these are all voluntary distractions. Your employee should recognise that the trust being placed in them to work from home will disappear should it be misused.
The end result is what matters. If you have set your designer the task of creating a great new brochure the important facts are – Was the work completed on time and meet/exceed expectations? – Would you rather be able to answer that question with “yes, the designer worked from home all week but the brochure looks great and we’re really pleased with it” or “no, the designer missed the deadline and it still looks like the job was rushed but at least he/she was turned up at 9am to work each day”
Choose productivity over power
Office environments are full of involuntary distractions and the two biggest culprits are managers and meetings, which often go hand in hand. The problem is managers are here to interrupt people, it’s their job to check up on what you’re working on. Most managers don’t actually do the hands on work, they oversee those that do, they make sure everyone is doing their job – which is an interruption.
Your manager often means well when they come and see what you are up to but the problem is that it is often at the wrong time. Just as you were beginning to get into that work flow and the ideas were coming thick and fast you suddenly hear “Hi Bob, how’s it going? What you working on? Have you got a minute spare to chat about how your day is going?”
In your head you are saying “Nope, this is a bad time as I’m just about to finish this bit of work you asked me to complete by the end of the day.” But in reality you say “Yeah sure, how can I help?”
For any managers reading this, a better approach is to send an IM or email, provided the issue isn’t extremely urgent, so that way the employee can choose when to read it and respond. Explain it is not urgent and ask them what time suits them to come and talk to you. Many managers would rather be in total control than have the company work well. Sometimes it is a good idea to stop and think about the knock on productivity effects of your actions.
Meetings about meetings
If you’re like me then the sound, let alone the sight, of the meeting notification popping up in your email client, just as you’ve hit full flow on that vital bit of work, fills you with sense of frustration and exasperation.
The problem is that you can rarely pick up where you left off before the meeting and you’ve come back to your desk with extra workload and your head is in a place thinking about the topic of the meeting and not the task you need to complete.
Meetings are places to go to talk about things you’re supposed to be doing later. There are very few meetings that take place that could be classified as vital and as a business owner it is not just the one hour you are losing in productivity by having a meeting with your staff but one hour multiplied by the number of attendees. This could be hugely detrimental to your business’ productivity.
It’s a good idea to schedule meetings very late in the work day but start with an activity that ensure people don’t switch off. The plus side for a business owner is that your employees will often mull over the discussion whilst travelling home. This is more productive for your business and your employee.
Be a rebel, schedule a meeting for 10, 40, or 25 minutes. You don’t have to be a slave to the 15, 30, 45, and 60 minute blocks that your email client offers.
Do you need to invite everyone you planned to? Does the meeting have to happen at all? These are the kind of questions you should ask yourself before filling up that meeting room.
Stay hungry, stay foolish
We hope you can take something away from this article that you can introduce in a positive way into your own work. When you understand when you are most productive and have the option to use that time as an alternative to your 9-5 then you’ll be happier, work hard, produce better results, and as Steve Jobs once proclaimed you’ll be able to “Stay hungry, stay foolish”.
Thanks for reading.
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