Video: Why the Office is the Worst Place to Work

by Jeremy Powers on December 9, 2010

This video is embedded in a post over at Farnam Street.  The video brought back several memories for me, and I thought I would share a few lessons I have learned.  First, here is the video:

Jason Fried has some lessons he would like managers to take away from this video.  I have a few related lessons for you as a business leader.

Going early or staying late at work

Jason talks about the work day becoming a series of “work moments.”  I have always been a proponent of going early, staying late, and taking a long break in the middle of the day.  The hours between 11:30am and 2pm are a waste at many offices.  There are too many people coming and going.  Everybody wants to stop and talk on their way to or from lunch.

At every company I have ever worked for, someone has caught me napping in my car during lunch.  I am a big fan of the mid-day, 25-minute power nap.  A mid-day shutdown can really help you rebuild your energy for a long second half of the day.  I really get momentum going about 6pm, a half hour after most people leave the office.  The reserve energy is important.  Try it.

Banning web access or specific web sites

One company I worked for banned any type of streaming media.  The management claimed the policy was to reduce bandwidth usage, but I doubt that was the main reason.  Since I am a fan of naps, you might guess I am a fan of “sanity breaks.”  That is true, but for you folks that work at a computer all day, I struggle to believe a funny YouTube video is going to help you stay sane.  (Take a walk, I promise you will feel better afterward.)

No, my problem with banning web access is the lack of confidence it shows in your employees. 

An increasing amount of free information and education is available online, and many people truly benefit from video or audio instruction, rather than text.  Management should trust the staff to make intelligent use of the time and resources available.

Yes, your phone call, email, text, or tweet is a distraction; OR Why I sometimes turn my smartphone off

I agree with Jason when it comes to distractions.  I disagree with Jason that email or SMS is a “passive” form of communication.  Many functional groups expect email to be opened and answered within an hour.  Many supply chain managers, for example, simply cannot understand why a marketing manager has not opened their email after a business day.

It is up to you to communicate what your standard response time is, or if necessary, negotiate an acceptable standard.  For example, I sometimes turn my phone and email off for two or three hour periods. 

Free up some mental capacity by occasionally turning off all of the communication noise.

More meetings is almost never good

In my experience, the more meetings your group or project team needs, the more likely it is you have trust or confidence issues within the group.  A quick check-in meeting can be healthy, but three team meetings a week is a sign of pending doom. 

You need to pick a strong team, communicate in an ongoing and efficient manner, and trust your peers. 

What do you think?

Do you get more done in the office?  Do you even need to “go to” the office to get the work done?  How much is the background interaction with your coworkers worth?

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