93% of Workers Are Least Productive… At Work?

I had put it off for as long as I could, and it was time to finally bite the bullet and get it done. I sent a message to my manager and told him that I was going to work from home the following day in order to knock a few things off my list. I knew others on the team did it occasionally, but it felt weird staying home instead of making the daily commute. And you know what? I really liked it. I actually got more done from home, accomplishing all of my key “to do” items and a few more. I was less stressed and felt satisfied for the first time in a while by the time I returned to the office the following day.

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I can still remember sitting in front of my computer that day all those years ago. I remember how I felt, what I was working on, and what the results were. I tell the story because it is a perfect example of what people are saying about how they get work done.

A Quick Primer on the ROWE

I realize that some of you might be newbies to the “ROWE” term, so let me break it down for you. The idea of a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) is fairly simple: you work when, where, and how you want to–as long as you get the job done. In other words, the place and method don’t really matter, but the results are more important than ever.

The point that ties in here is a core tenet of the ROWE movement: work is a thing you do, not a place you go.

If this sounds intriguing, I’ve written fairly extensively on the topic if you want to explore:

People Least Productive in the Office

The title for this post reflects the latest FlexJobs survey, which shows that just 7% of workers think they are most productive in the office. Ouch.

This is a reflection of the open office floor plan debate that has been going on for a few years now. People are just not able to focus, concentrate, and get things done when they are stacked on top of each other like cord wood. Is that actually a surprise to anyone?

The data actually says that this is a bigger problem than we realize, even if we just look at technology and the interruptions it can provide.

Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, found that the typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between interruptions, and it takes approximately 25 minutes to return to the original task after being interrupted. A further study found that those being interrupted make up to 20% more mistakes than those working in an uninterrupted environment. This makes me wonder what the cost of all this “multitasking” really is!

Know How Your Best Work is Done

Despite this somewhat gloomy outlook, it’s important to know how your best work gets done. Here’s my story.

The truth is that I’m an introvert, and my best work is done when I am in a quiet place where I can concentrate. I simply cannot work in an environment with a lot of noise or mental stimuli. In fact, in my day job I can go for eight hours straight without hearing anyone unless I have a meeting on the calendar. And that is fine with me, because it allows me to focus wholly on the task(s) at hand.

When I think back on my time working in a cubicle environment, I valued it in some ways and despised it in others. I really liked being connected to my staff and being incredibly accessible to them. On the flip side, it was really tough to have private conversations without scheduling a conference room or finding an empty space to connect. In addition, with my focus issues, I was never able to be fully productive since there was pretty much always an employee that wanted to ask a question, tell a story, or just be that chatty person that wandered around all day.

What each of you should do is think about how you work best, block out focused time, and try to minimize distractions that do not add value to your day. I learned a lot about this in the book Two Awesome Hours, which I referenced in a previous post.

Another book that quickly hooked me was Two Awesome Hours. The basic premise is that we were not meant to sit at a computer for eight plus hours a day working at a single repetitive task without breaks. That’s what robots are for. Josh Davis, PhD, says some people can get as much done in two good, productive hours as others can in an entire day. The concept has to do with a few different elements of work, but the part that has been most interesting for me is working on focused activities when I’m most “on.”

Good luck with managing distractions and being productive, my friends!

Employee Productivity Management

Employee productivity management is normally seen as a manager’s job, and that might be a good thing. Recent research has shown that some managers can achieve up to 10% increases in productivity among their staff.

In the video below I discuss this phenomenon and what it means for HR professionals and business leaders. I also talk about a book that has some crossover between the research on employee productivity management and how it actually played out in another study of manager impact on employee engagement, performance, etc. The third piece I discuss is a philosophy of author/speaker that HR’s last great unexplored frontier is employee productivity and how to get more from our staff. I think that’s a key piece of why engagement has become the hot buzzword in recent years (it sounds cooler than employee productivity management), but they both mean basically the same thing: how can we get more work out of our people for the same amount of money?

If it was an easy answer, we’d have answered it already. The book that I talk about in the video covers some amazing concepts for how to develop a culture of belief that is so strong that it drives employee engagement and profits. I highly encourage you to check it out if that’s something you are interested in.

Check out the video and let me know what you think!

Employee productivity management show notes


So, what do you think? How can HR professionals best impact employee productivity?

Want more? Check out the free employee performance management guide!

Unplugging, focus, and perspective

Yesterday I returned from a short getaway and jumped straight back into work. However, I had some interesting thoughts and definitely wanted to share them since when I talk to you guys about issues you’re facing, they’re usually issues I’m facing as well.

The importance of unplugging

Last Saturday I ran in a relay race with the Pinnacle Pounders (the running group I work with, or the working group I run with, whichever way you want to look at it). I think we ended up covering about 27-28 miles each, and it was just a fun, exciting experience. Afterward Melanie and I took off for a few days for some much-needed R&R. It felt wonderful to just kick back, relax, and forget everything for a while. We took our phones to keep in contact for emergencies, but otherwise we just used them to snap photos of the wildlife as we enjoyed the scenic hikes around Little River Canyon.

I came back refreshed and energized, and it sometimes takes a total removal from the normal routine to get that spark back that you’ve been missing.

Paring down your life Continue reading

Employee HR Portal-How to Build One

human resources portalI’ve had “create an employee HR portal” on my To Do list for a while now, and this week is the one where I check that little item off as complete. When it first appeared on the list, I honestly wasn’t sure what I was looking for. Besides walking around and asking people what they would like to see on there (which isn’t a poor option, but it didn’t seem very productive on my part), I wasn’t sure what to cover.

Information to include in an HR portal

My fabulous manager reminded me to treat it like a “first line of defense” for repetitive questions. Kind of like a “FAQ” to help people find what they need quickly instead of having to ask me repeatedly for the information. With that in mind, I made a short list to start from so I didn’t get overwhelmed: Continue reading

The 1% Solution For Work and Life (Book Review)

how to make your next 30 days your best everToday I get to review the book The 1% Solution for Work and Life by Tom Connellan. I have been doing a lot of reading on working smarter, being more productive, and developing solid work habits lately. With all the balls I juggle, it is often more than a little crazy. When my friend Rebecca reached out to me to see if I wanted to review this book, I couldn’t wait. The last book review I did for them was fantastic, and I hoped this one was on the same level. Lucky for me, it certainly was.

I am a fan of business books written with a narrative story embedded. It helps to put yourself into the situations the character is facing. You can sympathize with the troubles and celebrate with the triumphs. So before I was two pages into the book, it already had that going for it. :-)

The plot

The basic storyline is this: Ken’s life is barely hanging on by a thread in some places. He is sick and tired of just struggling to maintain that level of performance, and that prompts him to start a conversation with a friend who is doing quite well. The friend shares with him an interesting phenomenon illustrated by Olympic athletes. Apparently the best athletes in the entire world are approximately 1% better then those who are just really, really good. It’s not a 50% difference or even 10%. And if they can be the that good by being 1% better, why can’t we be 1% better at lots of little things in life? Continue reading