Jason Fried addresses why people never say the office is the best place for getting work done. Most people, he says, will say things like, “I get my best work done early in the morning at home,” or “on my commute.” Employers spend all this money renting and outfitting office space, but employees don’t view the office as a place for productivity.
The reason? Interruptions.
I agree, 100%. When I need to really buckle down, the office is not the best place for me. I enjoy working at coffee shops where, despite all the people around, I can get into a groove and no one will interrupt me. (I usually listen to classical music to drown out nearby conversations.) At the office I work in a shared space, so sometimes to approximate that isolation I actually put in earplugs. Weird, perhaps. I still hear conversations, but it’s more of a hum, and I feel separated from it all.
Fried says the reasons for the interruptions at work aren’t what you would think — it’s not Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. Those are “voluntary” interruptions — you look at them when you need a break, but you can also choose not to.
Instead, it’s what he refers to as M&Ms: managers and meetings. These are involuntary interruptions — you can’t escape them! People whose job it is to monitor your work actually end up hindering your work. And meetings? They’re counterproductive. You’re not doing work, you’re talking about work you will do in the future. And if it’s a 1 hour meeting with 10 people attending, that’s 10 hours of lost productivity.
He has three tips for moderating interruptions at work and making the office a place where people actually can get work done:
1. Pick one afternoon a month where no one in the office can talk to one another. Mad work will get done.
2. Replace active communication — face to face meetings — with passive communication. Like email.
3. Cancel the next meeting that’s scheduled (if you have the power). Then, see if cancelling the meeting affects things at all. Probably not.
What’s your take? Where do you get your best work done?