Why You Can’t Work at Work

Posted: March 30, 2010 Comments(12)

Why You Cant Work at Work BigThink interview with @jasonfried – garrys subposterous.

I guarantee that if you work in a building with more than one person, this is your life. Have you ever had the luxury of working from home for a day? It’s mind blowing how much work you get done.

At my company I take on more of a managerial role and as much as it pains me to say it I have to be honest when I say that I’m interrupted at least 60% of my day. Shifting gears is the worst thing that can happen regardless of your work style and working with other people simply begs for it to happen.

I try to do what Jason mentions in his interview by focusing for as big of a chunk of time as possible by not checking activeCollab, ignoring emails, not answering the phone, quitting iChat, ignoring Tweetie, and just listening to iTunes while I try to get something done today. If I get a straight hour of work done without interruption it feels weird. That’s awful. I need to change that in my company as soon as yesterday.

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  1. This isn’t true for me.

    I’ve got a child at home, crappy rural DSL (DNS service is so bad that Google’s DNS is an improvement), and no ergonomic workstation. I’ve got to go the office to get things done.

  2. That’s an interesting take, for sure. When I rarely find an excuse to work from home I’ve got the ability to lock myself in a room for the day and just get things done. Perhaps working at either home or your office is detrimental to your productivity, though. Perhaps a place with no children, a nice chair, and a decent connection to the Web are just what you need!

  3. I work from home one day a week currently … and on that one day I feel like I am more productive than the other four combined. I put projects aside to specifically work on on my home days.

    No meetings for the sake of meetings … no office drop by visits right in the middle of my “groove” time… no getting distracted by the endless stream of conversations out in the hallway and in offices around mine (some people have no volume control … LOL). And of course the obvious — no wasted time on commuting. For me – that gives me almost 2 hours extra time.

  4. I’m with Paul. I work from home and more often than not – have trouble working at work. I too have a child at home, but even before I did there were struggles. The biggest struggle is being 500 miles away from “the office” – so there’s no going in to get things done. I think our similar challenges, whether we work at home alone or in an office, are solved when we can break the routine. I’m sure if I could go into the office one day a week, I may have a good chance of getting things done more. A change of scenery could be that little jolt that lets you refocus and the days wouldn’t all blend together as much.

    Just some $.02

  5. 1 day a week? I’ve been working from home for nearly 10 years now (with 3 different companies).

    I love the flexibility and the lack of a commute really helps make better use of my time. At previous jobs I’ve had the commute would eat up as much as 3 hours a day, totally wasted time.

    Even now I find I’m more productive at night time, less interruptions via phone, email and IM, but since I do work from home I find I’m able to adjust my schedule appropriately. I can’t imagine working in an office environment again.

  6. I work for myself at home… I tend to work way more hours for myself, than I did for my previous company, but I also don’t have the wasted time with a commute everyday. The ability to focus is easy at this stage of my life with no kids yet, but I do miss the office interaction sometimes. To combat that, I will head out to a client’s place every so often and do some of their work there. It helps with getting to know them better rather than just phone, email and twitter all the time . It’s nice commuting 15 feet to my office, and if I need a break, MW2 is a reach away (gift and a curse 😉

  7. As much as I agree with what Jason said in the video, I think the situation presented needs more explanation. Unless you’re a freelancer, most projects you work on are a collaboration. Whether it’s between a designer & developer, content strategist & designer, or whatever, many people will touch a project throughout it’s lifespan. Point being, this requires back and fourth, and lot’s of it. Posting concerns/questions in activeCollab and patiently awaiting response, could really slow down the flow of a project. Maybe I’m too social, but I think that as long as the office discussion is focused on related work, then there’s no problem.
    This, of course, is not to be confused with random banter, or disruptions concerning unrelated projects. This is a major productivity killer. But still, I think a *little office chatter can be good for the soul.

  8. Working at home I find I get distracted to easily. I generally have to shut down twitter, close the browser, turn up the tunes and try to focus.

    I’ve learned to let my wife know as well, when I have work that must be done, not to interrupt me. I’ve gone as far as letting a main client know I’m turning off IM to get their project done. They often are the source of interruptions that keep me from sustaining a smooth workflow.

  9. Some really great points here. I think though that we may be assuming that by the “workplace” being attractive to unproductiveness he’s saying that home is better. I would be very cautious with that unless that involves being home alone in a proper work environment. I think he means the status quo office as it stands is more of a problem than home being a default solution.

  10. I don’t think Jason is arguing against collaboration. Quite the contrary in fact to be honest. He’s saying that collaboration should be more accommodating to each individual schedule. He’s saying that the consistent interruptions throughout the day completely degrade overall productiveness which is why they’ve focused on something passive like a company chat room. With that each employee is able to check out what’s needed as they find a few minutes to do so, not when they’ve finally found themselves in the all too elusive Zone.

    Continuing, the flow of a project doesn’t really come down to one person. If you need to collaborate with someone on something are you willing to derail the flow they’ve established on that day? Further, what if the person you need to work with is working on a completely different project?

    I agree, office chatter is good for the soul, but bad for productivity.

  11. Here’s my situation: My company allows its employees to work from home one day per week, and my roommate and I actually work at the same place. We carpool as a result, and as a result of THAT we both take the same from-home day.

    He loves working at home due to the considerably faster computer, more monitors, and a chair that doesn’t feel like it’s made out of cement. He says he gets a lot more done, and he very well may due to how bogged-down our work computers get running the MyEclipse IDE.

    I, on the other hand, would prefer to avoid it if possible. Why? I’ve got an awesome computer there, three monitors, a comfortable chair, and better coffee, so it should be the place I’d prefer. However, I’ve also got other work for my own business I could be doing, a load of instruments I could be playing, clutter I could clean up, laundry I probably need to do, things I could cook… I am easily distracted is the point. In the office, all I’ve got is a bag of pretzels, a cup of lousy coffee, and restricted internet access; in other words, “nothing that could possibly be of real interest to me.” Were it not for the extra hour-and-a-half of sleep I get on from-home days, I’d probably never opt to take them.

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