Posts filed under ‘Productivity’
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
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.
#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.
#3 Working Longer Does (Not) Increase 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
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 workmeter
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 workmeter
Guest Blog By JC Duarte, The Strategy Guy
“If an organization could teach only one thing to its employees, what single thing would have the most impact? My answer was immediate and clear: teach people how to learn. How to look at their past behavior, figure out what worked, and repeat it while admitting honestly what didn’t and change it.” This is the catch phrase that caught my attention & inspired this blog article when I read HBR’s leadership article The Best Way to Use the Last Five Minutes of Your Day by Peter Bergman.
15 Minute Magical Success Sessions
10h15 & 17h45, could possibly be the two 15 minute increments that will have the most significant impact on improving your quality of life. Are you familiar with the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu‘s quote “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”? Well, two 15 minute segments of your day can give you greater control over your own destiny, both personal & professional.
Having a Master Plan
How do you start out each day? If you’re like most people, you’ve got anywhere from a vague idea to a rock-solid plan, which in itself is a wide spectrum. Unfortunately, to add to this challenge, most of us have these in our head. The more advanced of you have written things down on a task or to-do list. How’s that working for you? Overwhelmed with the amount of tasks building up from day to day that you can’t seem to clear?
Here’s your 1st tip
No more than 3 significant tasks per day!
And this is where your FIRST magical 15 minutes success session comes into play. Just like Peter Bergman’s article suggests, before you pack it in for the day, take a moment to reflect on the day just past. What worked? What didn’t work? What’s within your control to improve your situation? What are you going to do differently tomorrow? OK, now write that down, and more importantly, block out time in your calendar for doing the things you need to get done. I like to call this “making an appointment with myself”. Ever heard the phrase “if you don’t have your own plan you’re destined to be part of someone else’s?” If you miss this step, I’ll guarantee you that each day will end with you having worked on everyone else’s plan instead of your own.
Finding Your Rhythm
Just like our biological clocks, and the rest of the universe, everything around us works in cycles & rhythms, so why should you be any different. If you respect your required sleep patterns, then your mind & body will be ready for the challenges of each new day. Finding your rhythm also means discovering your strengths & weaknesses, and applying a continual learning process that helps you move from theoretical education to applied practical behavioral change.
Here’s your 2nd tip
You can only effectively focus & execute tasks at optimal performance in 60 to 120 minute concentrated periods.
This means that it’s key to eliminate or avoid disruptions when you’re doing “knowledge work” that requires concentration & focus. And if you think about a typical day, plan it out properly, and hold yourself accountable to being disciplined, I’ll bet you can find three 60-90 windows of time where you can dedicate your focus to 3 significant tasks.
Here’s your 3rd tip
Even if you don’t want to listen to music, put your headphones on anyway. And if you have noise canceling headphones, better yet!
The fact is, people are less likely to interrupt you if they see you concentrated on a task & with head phones on, as they will assume you are listening to music, a tutorial video or something else that’s important. If your colleagues don’t happen to be this “cluey”, then by all means stand-up and share with those immediately around you that you’re about to start very important work that requires extreme concentration and that you’d appreciate not being interrupted for the next 60 minutes. Try it, it works!
Back to Your Master Plan
I said there were two 15 minute magical success sessions. Well your next most important 15 minute increment is your early to mid morning pulse check. Just like a doctor’s visit when your pulse is measured to see how you’re general health is, it’s key to take a pulse of how your day has started in comparison to your plan from the previous afternoon / evening, and to make any necessary adjustments before the new day flies by.
If you really want to be on the ball & gain extra bonus points for a satisfying & highly productive life, plan a pulse check just after lunch as well.
Here’s your 4th tip
I like to call these early to mid morning pulse checks Daily Huddles. And typically I have my team leads or direct reports join me on this huddle. We cover 3 simple things…
1. What’s up; How did I perform since our last daily huddle & what did I accomplish based on what I set out to do? How am I feeling about that? What am I going to do differently?
2. My Metrics for Today; What are the three most significant things I want to get done today, and what are the results (quantifiable) that I expect to witness by the end of the day in order for me to declare it a success?
3. What are My Stucks; What’s holding me back from succeeding on my plan? What are the interdependencies where I need help?
This exercise is not only a great activity to make sure that your focused on the things that need to get done each day, and week, in order to reach daily, weekly & monthly objectives, but likewise it gives you an opportunity to align & (if necessary) adjust individual team members focus. It gives everyone a snap-shot of what’s going on in their department & how it relates or contributes toward success. And most importantly, it gives us all an opportunity to address the things that are keeping us from succeeding (stucks), addressing them before we miss our deadlines (otherwise known as failure).
Has anything in this article struck a nerve with you? Upon reflection of these simple steps, is there anything new that you could apply to your daily routine that would put you back in control of your life, both personally and professionally?
May 22, 2012 at 5:30 pm workmeter
Email: How to Tame the Untamed Beast
It’s your everyday morning: you wake up with the perfect plan for the perfect day, everything laid-out and ready to go. You think to yourself This is the day I’m going to catch-up and relieve myself of all the stress. So you hit off, eat your breakfast, and drive to your typical 9-to-5 office.
Fast-forward to the end of the day: you just left another heavy project and you’re exhausted. You managed to get a good lead on your load, yet there’s still a long ways to go. But for now, you’re just on your way home, looking forward to that well planned R&R. You walk inside and are just about to heave a sigh of relaxation when suddenly your phone buzzes. You pull it out and it’s Johnson needing some quick help on the Smith report. Ok you think I’ll just get this over with then it’s me time. A couple of hours later and you’ve finished.
You go to the shower, run it on hot, when your phone buzzes again. You look at it and it’s your boss telling you there was an error in your last layout and was wondering if you could come in that weekend. Excellent. Now you have your lost weekend to fret about.
Then your phone buzzes again. And again. And again. It’s like you never left the office.
This is a scenario we’re all familiar with. Yet the University of California in Irvine recently released a study pointing out how poor work habits, particularly relating to email, impact a person’s overall health and productivity in the office. How you managing the main mode of communication in the office is a strong indication of how stressful you allow your life to get. Luckily, there are a few simple habits you can do to help bring that blood pressure down:
1) Delete (Turn Off) Your Email When You Leave Work
This is something most of us can do and that is not to take our work home with us. You work at an 9-to-5 office and it should last just that long: from 9 till 5. During that time, your office life can, and often will, get very stressful, so when it’s time for you to go home, leave it at the door. Same way how you leave your personal life at the door of the office. Your time at home is a time for you to kick back and relax because come the next day, it’ll start all over again and your productivity has to be at it’s best. This is impossible if your phone is buzzing off with emails every hour. The key: turn it off. You don’t need to be checking your email constantly. Whatever comes, you can deal with it tomorrow. This is your R&R, and keeping your mind busy with work 24/7 will only make you worse at it, not better.
2) Create Priority Alerts
Now there are those of us who’s jobs entail a continuous line to the office and cannot afford the luxury of turning off our emails. In this case, the Priority Alert system is your best friend. What this does is allows you to set an alert that goes off only if an email meets the required priority level, which is in this case “high”. What this will do is any urgent emails you receive that cannot wait until tomorrow will be buzzed to you and the ones that are of lesser importance won’t be. The epitome of time management which takes us directly to our next point.
3) Don’t Chain Events
Once you take care of that urgent email, you have to resist the urge to look and take care of the rest. Do NOT chain events. Once you start down this road, you won’t finish until it is 4 hours into your home time and you’re productivity and health will take the hit. This crucial time management skill will benefit you in both the long and short run. So stick to that one important email and that one email alone.
4) Auto-sort: Use It
|What’s something that nobody wants
but everybody has?
This is a habit for within the office, as opposed to outside it. Use the auto-sort. Create folders such as “meeting minutes”, “Smith project details”, or “misc.” and set your email to automatically filter them into those folders. What this will do is greatly unclutter your inbox and reduce that awful sinking-in-the-gut feeling when you see torrents of unread emails are awaiting you. By automatically sorting your emails, you can instead visit each folder in turn and deal with their respective emails, thereby boosting your productivity with a time management system.
5) Learn To Ignore
This is a reiteration of a part of a previous step, but it’s important enough to be reiterated. Learn to ignore some emails. Not permanently, but until it’s time to deal with them. This habit is perfect in and out of the office. If it isn’t urgent and your busy working, then ignore it. Worst comes to worst, they will call you. But in the office, learn to stay focused on the task at hand and out of the office, learn to stay focused on yourself. This is possibly one of the hardest habits for employees to develop.
May 8, 2012 at 8:00 pm workmeter
A few weeks ago, you’ll remember we spoke about the relatively new phenomenon that has hit North America, teleworking. If this is your first time reading, telework is the practice of working remotely from home, as opposed to from a corporate office or cubical. The benefits of this are quite astounding, ranging from more raising employee motivation and increasing productivity to saving the company millions in expenses. You can read more about it in our previous post here.
Jumping on the Telework Bandwagon
|Teleworking like the best of us
You would have expected other companies to have been the first to embrace this new method of work. Maybe one here and one there, first testing the waters to see how well it would work in the general system. But believe it or not, it wasn’t businesses who took to it: it was the government. Already passed by the US Senate, the US House of Representatives accepted and passed it with a vote of 254 to 152, allowing a much greater number of government employees to telework. The legislation creates a policy framework and set of procedures in order to begin teleworking, as opposed to prior, where teleworking was something difficult and near impossible to achieve, causing less than 10% of the employees to participate. Yet just from these low numbers, the Office of Personnel Management estimated it saved roughly $30 million a day on expenses. Not only that, but the Parent and Trademark office estimated they too were able to save $1.5 million a year through avoided rent expenses.
How Does It Work?
What the bill does is have government agencies decide which employees are eligible for telework. Those who are eligible would be required to complete training programs before signing telework agreements with the agency. As well, much like a company, not all government employees would be eligible for telework, for obvious reasons. The restrictions that limit those who can participate in teleworking are comprised of 3 simple rules: those who have been officially disciplined for “being absent without permission for more than 5 days in any calendar year”, those who have been officially disciplined for “viewing, downloading, or exchanging pornography…on a Federal Government computer”, and, for obvious reasons, those whose job requires an on-site presence to accomplish, such as law enforcement officers, park rangers, air traffic controllers, etc.
Only a Matter of Time
When the government has acted before the companies, you know somebody is behind. Companies are still slowly getting into the business of having their employees telework for fears of loss of productivity, despite the numbers to prove otherwise. Still remaining in an old train of thought, they believe that the best work is office work and work from home is simply unproductive work. So they turn to software such as WorkMeter, that allows them to monitor their employee’s productivity and gives them a chance to see with their own eyes just how effective teleworking is.
May 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm workmeter
Earlier this week, we discussed the downside of having those monthly updates. The IT guys coming in, trying to find the right software, getting it installed, and having it work all in the first try is wishful thinking. Productivity
end up taking a hit and your time management
goes down the drain. But I had left you off with a cliff hanger: given these unproductive moments updates leave us with, how can we turn it to our advantage? The answer is simple: minibreaks
|Wrong kind of productivity minibreak
(Image owned by Kellogg’s)
Long Breaks v. Minibreaks
are exactly what they sound like. They’re short breaks throughout the day in which the body rejuvenates its energy, unburdens its stress, and recuperates its focus to resume work one the minibreak is over. Now the conventional workplace has the concept of “breaks” down, but they utilize it in a large sense, i.e. in your nine to five job, you get one large break, which is your lunch period. To employers, this seems enough to keep employee productivity
up, as it is set in the middle of the day and it recharges your batteries. A study done in 2011, entitled Cognition
by Atsunori Ariga
and Alejandro Lleras
of the University of Illinois
), proved that this simply isn’t true.
Burn in Before You Burn Out
|Time outs is time management
Minibreaks are just work time outs
Ariga and Lleras’ work led them to discover that short breaks throughout the day are drastically more beneficial to maintaining focus and employee motivation
than a single large burst. The effect of a break quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns, in which the employees are no longer benefiting and are then simply wasting time. Instead, keeping these breaks small and plentiful throughout the day (such as 5 or 10 minutes every hour), is enough to give the brain a momentary rest for it to come back more productive than before. As well, these minibreaks
provide time for the subconscious to work on any problem solutions that might be eluding the employee, further hindering their motivation
. But that’s for another day.
Where do Updates Come In?
By now, I’m pretty sure you can see how updates can benefit instead of hinder. They are just another minibreak for the employee to take. Instead of stressing about the halt in their time management, it has become a moment for them to pause and recover before resuming their productivity.
April 27, 2012 at 6:27 pm workmeter
Updates are a necessary part of corporate life. If software becomes outdated, it must be replaced. If the system manufacturer has released a new version, it must be updated. Updates are done for the sake of bettering the tools at the employee’s disposal. Otherwise, we would all still be sitting here using Windows ME while the rest of the world ran Windows 7. Ask your typical employee what they think of when they hear updates and you’ll hear things like “My computer will be faster” or “These glitches will stop appearing”. Yet is that all there is to updates? Is there something behind the scenes that we don’t know about? Something that is hurting us as opposed to helping us?
Untimely Updates: The Double-edged Sword
A recent study done by Embarcadero Technologies shows that 72% of Information Technology workers believe that the constant searches, installations, and waiting for processes to finish drastically hurts their productivity level.
|Unforeseen Productivity Consequences
“Today’s workers spend too much time in the antiquated method of acquiring software and installing it on their PCs and maintaining licenses,” Michael Swindell, senior vice president of product management and product marketing at Embarcadero, said. “These methods have to change to keep up with today’s technologies. The growing trends of BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) and the Consumerization of IT are pushing the need for “iTunes-like” app stores more than ever before.”
He’s not far from the truth and you know it. While everyone looks forward to the end result of their updates, they equally dread the take-away time that comes before. The IT people take over your computer and you are stuck twiddling your thumbs until they finish. They take time to find the right update, download it, install it, then realize it’s for the wrong version, and the process starts all over again. All the while, you’re anxiously waiting to finish that project with the impending deadline. By this, the productivity of the IT worker and the cubicle employee diminish; specifically, it diminishes their work time by 67.1 hours, equating to about $2,851 per year, per employee.
The Fork in the Road
So what’s there to do about it? Employers have one of two options: they can either organize these updates before or after hours, in which IT employees would have to remain longer than usual, or they can use this gap in work as a relaxation period for the employee. Now the former does not seem to solve the issue as you are still holding back employees to work overtime and costing the company money. Yet supervisors still choose it over the latter because they rationale that keeping the worker busy. Yet this is the wrong idea. How, you might ask?
Come back on Friday and find out.
April 24, 2012 at 9:48 pm workmeter