Whatever your opinion about working from home, one thing is certain – it allows you to exert control over your work environment. And if you use that control to work in continuous bursts, working from home can make you a far more effective employee.
How? By taking advantage of the science behind the results curve.
How Results Change With Time – The Results Curve
Let me show you how your results change with time when you are working on a task. As shown in the chart, when you start to work on a task, you start to get results, and as you continue, you get more results. At some point, however, the results level off and then diminish, because you get mentally tired and no longer productive, you need someone else to do their part before you can continue, or you complete the task.
This is all good in theory, but what happens in reality is that a few minutes after you start to work on a task, you are interrupted (e-mail, phone, someone stops by, etc.). When you are interrupted, your results go down to zero. A few minutes later, you start again, and you start to make progress, but you get interrupted again. This time it’s an IM, or your boss is calling. Your results go down to zero again, and this happens repeatedly. This is life in today’s work environment.
This cycle is devastating for your overall results. Working this way, you get only a small fraction, maybe five to 10 percent, of the potential results that you could be getting if you were to stay focused. In addition, when you are working a few minutes here and a few minutes there, you are staying at a superficial level and not going deep into any particular project or line of thought.
So the point is that you need to stay on a task long enough to achieve the focus, in-depth thinking and creative problem solving that gets meaningful things accomplished. This can take 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or several hours, depending on the task. Then once you have accomplished something worthwhile, it is time to stop your focused session and switch to being collaborative – to handle e-mail, make phone calls, and have live discussions. This is the work where we get most of our team productivity and equally important results:
Working in “Bursts”
As I demonstrated above, the best results are accomplished by working in bursts: alternating between bursts of focused effort, bursts of collaborative effort, and bursts of play time. This brings us back to the remote versus office work debate. Each burst needs to be supported by the appropriate physical location, tools, and people.
The focus burst (you can call it the “alone” burst) is likely to require silence and uninterrupted work, allowing you to dive deeply into the task at hand and unleash your creativity. Your surroundings need to be conducive to focus and creativity. Most offices aren’t necessarily designed to support this burst. Nor are the people at the office trained to behave in ways that support these bursts. Home is the better “office” in this case. For some people, however, home can be noisy and full of interruptions and temptations, in which case a third place may be the answer, such as a café, conference room, or some other remote location.
The Collaborative Burst and the Office
The collaborative burst requires access to the people you want to collaborate with as well as the collaboration tools that can support this effort. If your team is in one office, then the office is likely to be the ideal place for this burst. But if your team is spread among multiple offices, and perhaps even time zones, then the physical location becomes less relevant, and access to effective collaboration tools becomes crucial. Home may again be the ideal “office,” cutting down on commute time and giving you the best of both worlds – focus bursts when you need them and collaborative bursts when you need them.
The Play Burst and the Office
While the play burst seems secondary, it is actually critical for productivity and engagement. This burst needs to happen whatever the location, and it needs to happen often. While many such bursts can be short periods of as little as a few minutes, more significant play bursts, and play-together bursts, are also vital to productivity.
Remote Work Can Benefit the Organization
Not all jobs or companies benefit equally from the ability of employees to control their environments enough to work creatively in bursts, but those that do should factor productivity science into their policy-making. But as with most things, all-or-nothing approaches are probably not the most effective. Companies should experiment; untethering employees from their desks can help wake up a culture, align workers to the company’s goals, and prepare the organization for its next set of challenges.
Where do you get the most work done? Where can you best make productive leaps?
Pierre Khawand is the founder and principal of People-OntheGo, a corporate productivity coaching firm. For more suggestions about how to increase your productivity, download his free eBook Results Curve™.Tags: Business,BYOD,Downtime,Productivity,Technology