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The Dog Ate My Homework


Optimize Blog - August 21, 2013 - 1 comment

A common response to the realization that you occasionally work from home is the question “How do you concentrate?”
This is natural, given that many office-bound workers seem to associate their home with sleeping, ‘honey-do’ lists and listening to the Grateful Dead’s greatest hits. A recent review of a productivity diary for a ten-hour working day at home we found that the person involved wasted at least three hours on social networking, instant messaging, unnecessary cleaning, family crises, rearranging books on shelves and pruning the house plants most of which we suspect may actually be dead.
A review of a sequel diary for a ten-hour day in the office proved that, if anything, the individual was even less productive. At least four hours were spent reading and answering inconsequential emails, walking around in search of coffee and biscuits, meetings, commuting, discussing Duck Dynasty with colleagues, discussing the latest political scandal with colleagues, and discussing colleagues with colleagues and of course even more meetings.
Indeed, it seems to us here at Zeitgeist that the more pertinent question in relation to the modern workplace is “How do people in offices concentrate?” And the answer, if several academic studies are anything to go by, is simply that they don’t. According to one piece of research, it takes 25 minutes for a worker to regain focus on a task interrupted by a phone call, an e-mail, or a conversation. And, apparently, the regular office worker is distracted up to 20 times a day.
Meanwhile, other studies have found that 16 of the 45 hours that US workers toil every week are “unproductive”, that only three of the five days that British staff work are productive, and that the average executive manages to complete only three hours 50 minutes of constructive work each day.
You also sense the intensity of the problem in the tricks that people employ to try to get work done at work. Some block out imaginary “meetings” with themselves, others give up e-mail, and others make to-do lists to name just a few.
Companies have tried to help by experimenting with “meeting-free Fridays”, e-mail-free hours, switching off the internet for part of the day, and even giving employees a baseball cap to wear that works as a “Do not disturb” sign……
Nothing conveys the desperation more than the tips proffered by productivity experts and the plethora of books on the subject.
Working from home is a realistic solution to improving personal productivity provided we can train ourselves to be disciplined in avoiding distractions and the partner who confuses ‘being home’ with ‘being mine’. Distractions are all around us and so finding some time in the week to set boundaries and work remotely can increase output markedly. Give it a try and let us know how it goes…..

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1 comment

  1. Jon

    With the correct working environment in place, homeworking has the potential to be far more productive. I have worked from home for the past 4 years and as a part of a global team it makes no difference to my colleagues where I am located. I can jump on calls early in the morning to work with EMEA and in the evenings I can conference with China. Mainstream desktop video gives me face to face contact with my teams and I don’t suffer from the “drive-by” distractions that plague my colleagues who are office based. When my family are at home, they know to never distract me and best of all, the moment I finish work, I am able to spend time with them. Homeworking is not for everyone – you have to be disciplined – but the benefits to both the employer and employee can be substantial.

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