"Companies need to help employees unplug"

This is a quote from Ndubuisi Ekekwe in the Harvard Business Review talking in an article entitled Is Your Smartphone Making You Less Productive?:

Companies need to help employees unplug. (Of course, every business is unique, and must take its own processes into consideration. But for most companies, giving employees predictable time off will not hurt the bottom line.) In my own firm, when we noticed that always-on was not producing better results, we phased it out of our culture. A policy was instituted that encouraged everyone to respect time off, and discouraged people from sending unnecessary emails and making distracting calls after hours. It’s a system that works if all of the team members commit to it. Over time, we’ve seen a more motivated team that comes to work ready for business, and goes home to get rejuvenated. They work smarter, not blindly faster. And morale is higher.

Give it a try in your own company. As a trial, talk to your team and agree to shutdown tonight. I’m confident that you’ll all feel the benefits in the morning.

How do you try to create shutdown times and unplug?

(May I apologise for my ramblings last week, there was way to much information in one post, I promise to be get back to my normal approach of little and often)

Working on a day of important interruptions

Interruptions have a massive negative impact on productivity. You might think that you can easily switch from one place to another but you can’t. every time you switch you have a period of time when you are not being productive at doing what you are doing.Blackpool Prom Scuptures at Sunset

With this in mind there are many time management and activity management philosophies around that help you to focus on the important things and to drive out the interruptions. Most of the time I would agree, but today is one of those days that is an exception.

Today the important things are the interruptions. There are a set of people who are working away on things and they need help doing it, they don’t know when they need help so they need to be able to interrupt.

That leaves me with the challenge of staying productive between the interrupts.

I don’t want to start anything significant because I’ll just spend all day being frustrated.

I can’t sit around waiting for the interrupts because I’m likely to fall asleep and then miss the interrupts.

I don’t want to go and look for the interruptions because that would interrupt the people doing the productive work.

So what do i do?

It’s a dilemma.

I’m up-to-date on my email.

I’m up-to-date on my feeds.

I’m up-to-date on my twitter.

I almost wish that i was behind on my administration.

Slow Logon v Slow Applications

I hear a lot of people complaining about the amount of time it takes them to start their device and get working. Glen CoeI hear this complaint a lot more often than complaints about slow applications. I’m sure that people have both problems – but they complain about one, massively, above the other.

Slow logon is an issue that is certainly very visible to people, but I wonder how much impact on someone’s days to day productivity it really has. So I’ve done some analysis comparing the impact of slow logon with the potential impact of slow applications.

image

It can be seen from these numbers that a 15 minute interruption for logon would be roughly equivalent to me of my applications going 4% slower.

Given the choice of slow logon or slow applications which would I choose?

I would choose slow logon over slow applications every time. Why? Because it has a lesser impact on my productivity but also I’d rather have a single 20 minute interruption at the beginning of the day.

Also, I’m not necessarily comparing apples with apples here. The numbers for application usage are times when I am really working on a computer. The numbers for slow logon are times when I might have been working, but equally, I might have been getting myself a coffee, or talking to a colleague.

Obviously, I’d rather not have either!

So how did I get to these numbers?

The logon numbers are based on the amount of non-productive time I’d have, assuming that I logon 6 times in the working week and I’m not doing any work for the duration of the logon time.

The application numbers are based on the amount of time that I have used my applications since the beginning of the year according to Wakoopa.

For all of this I’ve assumed that I work an 8 hour day, which isn’t true, but it’s near enough and doesn’t change the ratios only the absolute numbers. hence there is quite a close alignment of the application impact on overall productivity.

(Update: I noticed a mistake in my numbers so I’ve changed it a little)

Writing and reading – getting down to it

Over recent years I’ve noticed a significant shift in my attention span. I’d like it to be getting longer but unfortunately it’s getting shorter. Island Hoping

There may be a reason for this; we recently discovered that the central heating boiler in our house had been incorrectly fitted and was doing its best to poison us all.

But I’m not sure it’s that simple.

I wonder whether it’s also a problem with the number of distractions that I now have available to me.

This week I decided to do something about the distractions.

One of the main distractions is my phone, it always seems to ring at the most inopportune times. This week I made a decision (please don’t tell anyone), I put my phone onto silent and waited to see what would happen.

I’ve written and read more in the last few days that I have for weeks.

I haven’t missed a single really important phone call – and there have been some.

Make screens a priority

How long do you think that you spend looking at some form of screen every day?Wisley in the Autumn

Television? Laptop? Mobile phone?

According to the New York Times it’s likely to be longer than you think:

In fact, adults are exposed to screens — TVs, cellphones, even G.P.S. devices — for about 8.5 hours on any given day, according to a study released by the Council for Research Excellence on Thursday. TV remains the dominant medium for media consumption and advertising, the study found. The data suggests that computer usage has supplanted radio as the second most common media activity.(Print ranks fourth.)

That’s right 8.5 hours a day.

Even excluding TVs that’s a lot of time, spent on screens at work. So why do we spend so little on the actual screen itself? It’s the primary tool that we use.

I’m constantly amazed when I go around offices to see the way that people are using and abusing the screen that they use all day, every day.

I’ve already written about multiple monitors. If I could communicate one thing to people that I know would radically change their productivity it would be that. But there is more to it than that.

In most organisations that I know screen purchases are tightly controlled. You have to be really special to have anything more than the standard screen. In many ways this control is completely disproportionate to the value that a good screen gives and the relative cost.

The number of people who have cracked or severely scratched mobile phone screens never  ceases to amaze.

There are times when I feel like going around with a cleaning cloth and revealing to people the wonders that lurk beneath. Go on, I dare you, clean a screen today.