Future of work: Manage energy, not time
Productivity and efficiency – buzzwords celebrated in every office. Why these two? Well, they encapsulate the recipe for business success: minimising input, controlling resources and maximising output over the shortest possible period of time.
But the two terms were defined long time ago for very different era – Industrial revolution. Yet, so many companies seem to still believe that optimising towards factory goals is compatible with what we’re trying to achieve in service industry, internet economy and places, where creativity needs to blossom.
Because I’ve recently taken the opportunity to go beyond the office walls and beyond the traditional workweek altogether, my understanding of what productive and efficient means has changed and I’ve got some exciting points to share with you. They include tropical office views, asynchronous living and lots of fun. Perhaps that’s what Future of work of might look like.
The productivity and efficiency fallacy
Quite logically, one would assume that the longer we work, the more we output. Well, that would be correct if we were machines.
Also, traditional office environment assumes that putting everyone under the same roof, at the same time, under the same conditions guarantees order, consistency – and therefore – a more efficient process. Again, correct if we weren’t all unique humans.
Strangely, we’ve been applying this industrial age logic to our work cultures until now and almost nobody went “Waaaait a minute!”
Quite the contrary. Companies have been rewarding people for working (or pretending to work) more hours and for sidetracking their personal lives and interests.
Does this have a profound impact on the lives of employees? Obviously, and that could be a great topic for another post.
But, the surprising and not so obvious fact is that what was originally designed to benefit the companies might not be benefiting them at all.
The negative effects are greater than the positive ones … duh
Our prehistoric understanding of productivity and efficiency comes with flaws, or side-effects at best, which only until recently didn’t seem big enough to be taken seriously. If, for example, all we care about is how many hours people clock in because we want them to produce more output, what happens is that there will be people who pretend to be doing work. And these people will find a way to become valued for faking it and eventually might even end up getting valued higher than those doing the actual work
Employees are paid for sitting instead of being paid for working.
This results in demotivation, lack of interest, boredom – all of which have impact on the actual productivity.
Same goes for efficiency. We’ve become obsessed with communication so much that we overdid it. First, with the phone call that ended up as a half hour chit-chat, then with an email that turned into an endless thread cc-ing every damn person in the office and lastly, with meetings. The more meetings in your calendar, the better. You want to look busy and productive, right? Oh, and did I mention the water cooler conversations and hundreds of slack channels per department?
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that these means of communication and engagement aren’t useful. Communication is imperative to every success story.
What I’m trying to pinpoint is that we’ve taken many of these things to extremes, followed them blindly instead of making an effort to measure their impact, let alone looking for alternatives.
The Future of work is here
So what is the future of our workplace? We’ve realised that long hours don’t necessarily bring us the wealth we imagined, because even when we earn all that money, we don’t have time to enjoy it. In addition, working long hours without a proper time off makes us feel tired and depressed. We now understand that we need to balance mental activity with giving our bodies an opportunity to move and breathe deeply too. We began doing sports, even as a collective business activity, we got outdoors, we started meditating.
Today, we’re not only conscious of our working environment but we also started demanding more opportunities to work from where it feels good for us. And companies support that because they know that sometimes the office chatter doesn’t benefit work that requires highly focused mind.
They realised that it’s more important to them getting shit done than having all their employees under the radar even during their pee breaks.
Some of us even recognised the need to move from place to place on a global scale because it helps us to broaden our horizons. The internet cafe from 15 years ago has turned into a fully fledged office space (and home in some cases). Many of these are located exactly where it’s convenient for us instead of where it’s convenient for the employer or client.
Last but not least, we understood when we’re most productive. It could be early in the morning or late at night, or perhaps different each day. And yes we might need to squeeze in that cheeky surf sesh before we even open our laptops.
So, yes, the Future of work has already arrived! There are businesses which are already trying it out, like Buffer, Basecamp or Zapier for example, and with them a whole new époque of world of work begins.