3 Things Any Software Company Can Learn to Increase Work Productivity From Jason Fried’s Ted Talk: “Why Work Doesn’t Happen At Work”
Jason Fried is a software entrepreneur as well as the co-founder and president of 37 Signals, a Chicago-based software company. Widely recognized for intense work productivity and collaboration, 37 Signals specializes in web-based work productivity tools. Fried prepared a Ted Talk titled: “Why work doesn’t happen at work,” in which he discusses work issues, bringing up many valuable points about productivity levels at the office. Fried believes that work doesn’t happen at work for several important reasons.
His talk begins with the answers to a question Fried has been asking people for ten years. He has probed individuals about their worksite preferences when it comes to where they work best. Individual responses repeatedly ignored the office, but instead included a location, an object or a specific period of time. Some would say they work best early in the morning, on the porch or in the car. Nobody answered that they work best at the office. Eventually Fried concluded that people work best in locations that do not provide any interruptions or distractions to their work.
Generally, most employers feel that their employees should not work at home because they are afraid of distractions or fear of lost productivity. In reality, some people work better at home because they are free from workplace interruptions. At the office, people tend to work in short bursts of time before they are bothered by a co-worker or manager. Fried compares the phases or stages of sleep to the ability to work. In order to sleep well, you must get a total of 6 hours of uninterrupted peace. The same applies for work. A day at the office should include long periods of deep thought and application in order to resolve complex issues and to even finish basic tasks
Fried explains that the biggest distractions at work come from managers and meetings. He calls them the “M&M’s” of office interruptions. Managers are constantly interrupting work time to bother employees about issues unrelated to the problem at hand, or simply to check-in. Without these disturbances, a person has the time to compete important tasks. In addition, meetings also sometimes function like managers. Meetings throughout the day may take large amounts of time away from an individual while providing disappointing value in return.
Despite his criticisms of wasted time in the workplace, Fried does have some interesting suggestions to those hoping to complete work at the office.
Suggestions for Completing Work at Work to Increase Work Productivity, from Jason Fried
While Jason Fried could be described as a proponent of enabling employees to work where they work best (home, office, or somewhere else), he does offer practical suggestions to those trying to improve productivity at work. Here are a few of Fried’s recommendations:
- No Talk Thursdays – While this concept may seem a little restricting, Fried makes the point that people need to schedule longer stretches of uninterrupted time to get serious work completed. By having a day of the week designated as a “no talk day” people are freed up of meetings and other distractions that may negatively impact productivity.
- Passive Communication – Moving from face-to-face interactions to a more passive approach to communication increases the amount of time spent free of interruptions. While face-to-face collaboration is a positive aspect of working, Fried notes that email and instant messaging can be turned off or silenced in order to get some quiet stretches of work-time.
- Cancel Meetings – Fried simply states, “If you have a meeting, just cancel it.” He believes that some meetings are simply irrelevant and lengthy, and that gains in productivity from fewer meetings may outweigh any negative effects.
Fried has some strong beliefs when it comes to working at work. He believes that the office environment should be conducive to high productivity. As a leader in collaboration, Fried’s suggestions come from years of observations and personal experience. If you or your organization is struggling to create a more productive work environment, it might be useful to watch Fried’s Ted Talk and/or to check out some of his publications about work productivity.