CNN’s web site has an interesting post this morning from Jason Fried, co-founder and president of 37signals, which produces software enabling teams to work together online. He is also co-author of a new book entitled “Rework.”
Fried’s piece, entitled “Why the Office Is the Worst Place to Work”, takes a very interesting look at why so few people think of their office when asked where they’d go if they really needed to get something done:
I don’t blame people for not wanting to be at the office. I blame the office. The modern office has become an interruption factory. You can’t get work done at work anymore … .
When you’re in the office you’re lucky to have 30 minutes to yourself. Usually you get in, there’s a meeting, then there’s a call, then someone calls you over to their desk, or your manager comes over to see what you’re doing.
These interruptions chunk your day into smaller and smaller bits. Fifteen minutes here, 30 minutes there, another 15 minutes before lunch, then an afternoon meeting, etc. When are you supposed to get work done if you don’t have any time to work?
Fried then goes on to uncover the striking similarities between work and sleep:
I believe sleep and work have a lot in common. I don’t mean that you can sleep at work or you can work in your sleep. I mean sleep and work are phase-based activities. You don’t just go to sleep or go to work — you go towards sleep and towards work.
You aren’t sleeping when your head hits the pillow. You start the sleep process. You have to go through phases to get to the really beneficial sleep. And if you’re interrupted before you get there, you have to start over.
The same is true for work. You don’t just sit down at your desk and begin working effectively. You have to get into a groove. You go towards good work. It takes some time to settle in, clear your head, and focus on what you need to do.
I don’t think anyone would expect someone to get a good night’s sleep if they were interrupted all night long. So why do we expect people to get a good day’s work if they are interrupted all day long?
He concludes by suggesting a few options to increase productivity and uninterrupted work time, including “no-talk Thursdays” instead of casual Fridays, and using passive communication, such as instant messaging, instead of popping in on a colleague’s office.
But he saves his best bit of wisdom — at least in this over-scheduled writer’s opinion — for last:
3. Cancel your next meeting. Or just don’t attend it. I’m not suggesting you boycott all meetings — just the next one. Life will go on. And all that stuff you thought you had to talk about with eight other people around a table will get worked out some other way. You’ll gain an hour of time you can spend on more important things. And so will those eight other people. Work can happen without that next meeting. Once you recognize that meetings aren’t as necessary as you thought, they’ll become a last resort instead of a first resort.
Now go enjoy your Monday staff meetings! (Or not.)