Archive for June, 2012

5 Productivity and Motivation Misconceptions Your Boss Believes Are (Not) True

The Truths Behind the Rules

This is not employee motivation.

It’s been a long held belief that, on the broad spectrum, if something is entertaining then it is distracting. From radios to the internet, the workplace has always been a place of…well, work. Rules such as “No Facebooking” or “No music outside of break” have been implemented for supposed reasons such as to increase productivity or maintain employee motivation. Supervisors will tell their employees that such things do nothing but distract from the report that needs to be filled out or from the project that needs to be done. I disagree. Correction: we at WorkMeter disagree.

We have found the top 4 misconceptions in regards to employee productivity and motivation in the workplace and are posting them here. We even tossed in a little surprise as #1 misconception.

#5 Multitasking Does (Not) Get Things Done Faster

Working on a couple of things is ok. Bouncing every 30 minutes between 10 tasks is not. We all have multiple things going on in our office and it is impossible for us to be doing only one thing at a time. WorkMeter has done the research: it takes about 12 minutes to fully concentrate on any single task. That being said, we are interrupted every 96 SECONDS, be it internal interruptions, such as stray thoughts, or external interruptions, such as a person speaking to you. Minimize the amount you do in any single time. Work in hour intervals between 2 of your upcoming deadlined projects. Keep it few and you will find yourself accomplishing more in less time.
This is a Harvard Business Review article regarding much the same thing.

#4 Taking Online Breaks and Socializing Does Increase Motivation

Online shopping, facebooking, even taking to the guy in the cubical next over is enough to kill the monotony and allow you to start fresh. Employees sometimes need to step back and just stop for a little bit. It could be stress, it could be an issue they don’t see a way around, or it could be just an urge to get up and take a little walk for a couple of minutes. Often times, in jobs on computers, this relaxation is seen in the form of net surfing, a huge taboo in the corporate world. Seen as large time-suck vacuums, many offices forbid their employees from accessing social sites such as Reddit or YouTube, regardless of being shown that they do quite the contrary.
A study done by the University of Singapore proved that Internet surfing, socializing, taking a walk, all of these things and their like serve the purpose of clearing the mind and allowing fresh thoughts and ideas come through, so when work is resumed 5 or 10 minutes later, it’s done with greater motivation and, many times, with better results.
To get a better understanding, see this related post and study.

#3 Working Longer Does (Not) Increase Productivity

Work Productivity
Contrary to popular belief,
this isn’t the productivity award you
want to be winning.

Simply put, staying and working long past your dead zone helps no one. In fact, it hurts. Overtime tends to be a way that managers and supervisors squeeze the extra work out of employees in order to cover an impending deadline or debug a sudden error close to launch, and that isn’t too big of an issue. But when the norm of the workplace becomes 55 and 60 hour weeks, both productivity and motivation will begin to decline. Studies have even shown them to decline exponentially when overtime is pushed week after week.

For a more detailed look at the effects of overtime, check out last weeks post.

#2 Privacy Comes at the Cost of Productivity

Many corporations sacrifice the privacy of their employees in order to maintain an “efficient and productive workforce”. Naturally, Human Resources is there to defend what little privacy right the employees have left. Yet this doesn’t have to be the case as it’s been proven that privacy and productivity can coexist, and WorkMeter itself is a testament to that.
An employer doesn’t need to know the specifics of what an employee is doing on the computer (as long as it isn’t illegal). All they need to know is whether or not they’ve been, or are being, productive. By using productivity software to record and compare the amount of time spent on productive programs in comparison to non-productive programs, they get their answer. An employee spending 2 hours of productive and 6 on non-productive is obviously wasting time, regardless of what those non-productive applications are. Privacy preserved, productivity gauged.
For more on how you can maintain a productive environment without seeming like Big Brother, check this out.

And the top misconception is….

#1 Maroon 5 (or Music in general) Does Boost Output and Moral

Yes, you read right. Half the respondents in a study done by Songza agreed that Maroon 5 makes them more productive at work. But more importantly, MusicWorks released their own study indicating that 1/3 of employees are less likely to take sick days if background music is playing in the office, given that the Confederation of British Industry estimated roughly 21 million working days lost to illegitimate absences each year. As well, they reported that 77% of people were happier with music playing in the workplace than not. The link is simple: music leads to an increase in motivation and moral which leads to increases in productivity and performance.

June 5, 2012 at 5:46 pm 2 comments

3 Reasons Why Overtime Hurts Productivity

The Fallacy of the Going over 40 hours a week

The 40 hour work week is about a common a phrase as the 9-to-5 day. They both go hand in hand in the American work system. Yet those of us who have already been in the workforce for some time now know that it usually doesn’t end there. Some of us reach 50 hours; some 60. Some, like lawyers and doctors, can even go up to 70! This is common place and we all, especially you managers reading this, know it. I recently read an amazing article by Sara Robinson on the Salon showing how the typical employee nowadays puts in an average of 55 hours a week CONSISTANTLY, and its downsides. It’s a lengthy article but I would highly recommend taking a look. If you just don’t have the time, keep reading here and you’ll get the gist.
We all know how the 40 hour work week began; in the early 1900s, Unions pushed employers to bring the work to 40 hours a week and in the end, the industries accepted this, since their own research and data proved the Unions right. The first industrialist being our very own Henry Ford, who doubled worker pay and cut hours from 9 a day to 8. Since then, year after year, studies continually proved how 40 hours a week was the best, causing more and more businesses to hop on board. But then came the “passion crisis”. People who were seen to work more than 40 hours were praised as being more passionate and productive towards the company. This caused employers to slowly begin to demand more and more time from their employees, from staying after hours to coming in on weekends.
WorkMeter has a hard stance that it’s not how long you work, but how you work. Merely putting in more hours isn’t indicative of being productive, and here’s why:

1) Low Recharge Time

                Your body is like a battery. Scratch that. Your body IS a battery. I’m sure we’ve all seen The Matrix and they aren’t far off in that idea. Your body needs to recharge after a long days work. Putting in 8 hours allows you to get home, relax, go to bed, and wake up full charged for a new day. Going over 40 hours throws off that cycle. You get home really late, exhausted from the office; the time is already 10 pm so there is no chance to relax. You go to bed immediately so you can get up in time for another day and there you go; the following day you enter work no longer at 100% capacity, but at 90% or 80%.

2) Short Gains, Long Losses

                Now studies do show there are slight short-term gains in demanding 60- or 70-hour work weeks, but only on demanding and sparse occasions. If an upcoming deadline needs to be met and the whole team is asked to put in more time, then it is conducive to ask for more. Yet employers have forgotten that these short gains cannot be maintained and, if continuously demanded, will end up as long-term losses. After the first overtime workweek, productivity begins to decline, and every consecutive overtime week that is demanded after, productivity falls even more rapidly.
                What’s worse is that, taking the previously mentioned deadline example, after the crisis is averted and the deadline is met, it takes the team several weeks for the burnout to be lifted and to resume a fully productive 40-hour work week, as a Business Roundtable study found. In other words, that small amount of 30% boost was productivity taken in advance and is now being paid back with interest.

Not Necessarily Productive Time

3) Overtime Isn’t Necessarily Productive Time

                Now the most obvious, yet equally the most ignored, point. Many managers believe a direct 1-to-1 correlation exists between pulling overtime out of workers, yet the case is far from it. Here is an example from Robinson:

By the eighth hour of the day, people’s best work is usually already behind them (typically turned in between hours 2 and 6). In Hour 9, as fatigue sets in, they’re only going to deliver a fraction of their usual capacity. And with every extra hour beyond that, the workers’ productivity level continues to drop, until at around 10 or 12 hours they hit full exhaustion.

                Pushing people past their capacity doesn’t mean they will bring in more. Lack of rests leads to things such as careless errors that could take days to fix or unproductive uses of time such as checking emails and web surfing.

So What of It?

There will be managers that argue that they will get used to it or it is a demand of the market and world they work in, but to this I reply that you only hurt yourself and your company. Studies have shown over and over again that, overall, you get no more from a 10-hour day than you would have from an 8-hour day. So keep this in mind. The best and wisest supervisors and managers out there keep this in check and never have to go to overtime because 1) they’re aware of the long-term productivity decline that follows, 2) keep the hard pushes as short as possible, only when they are a must, and 3) give the employees a couple of days off to recharge and rejuvenate. As we at WorkMeter have always said, “It isn’t how long you work, but how you work.”

June 1, 2012 at 11:27 pm 2 comments

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