Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 97 – Productivity

In this issue we will look at:
•    Productivity: Are we doing enough?
•    Multi-tasking vs. Individual Task Priorities
•    Hot desking and open plan offices
•    Connected to the grid

Productivity: Are we doing enough?
We all like to think we are busy, but are we productive as well?

I read an interesting statistic some time ago that said (and I paraphrase) for every interruption that occurs we spend another 8 minutes trying to get back to the same level of thought / productivity we were in BEFORE we were interrupted.

But what do we mean by interruptions?

Well to be fair it could be anything – for example:
•    Screeching tyres outside the building,
•    A ringing telephone,
•    Pop up messages we get when a new email comes through,
•    Someone holding a conversation next to your desk – they may not be actively speaking to you – but you can hear them anyway.

And then there are the direct interruptions we get when people do stop by to speak to you, customers who need serving, and telephone calls we need to take and so on.

When you think of it like that, it’s amazing to me how we can get anything meaningful done in a day at all. And the problem does not stop there.

Multi-tasking vs. Individual Task Priorities:
Do you like to think you can multi-task with the best of them, or are you a single minded individual when it comes to working on tasks, projects and to-do items? To be fair, I feel it depends what you are attempting to do as to whether multi-tasking can increase or decrease your productivity.

As you know I run my own business and during an evening when I am sending out the Daily e-zine I can do other things as they run through the send mail program. But trying to get them to the point of sending can be almost impossible when I am for instance being distracted by my kids or the cats or people phoning the house.

And it is the same for most of the writing I do. Writing anything that requires any kind of concentration (which is a huge part of my day at IEA) with the noise of a busy office happening around me – takes a massive amount of effort, and I find I am unable to multi-task anything, and have taken to playing music to provide some kind of white noise to counter the other noises that I hear. Eventually the brain does tune out some / all of the noise – but I know the louder the office is, the less productive with my writing I usually am.

Hot desking and open plan offices:
And it’s not just open plan offices that that may struggle with employee productivity, consider organisations that have a culture of open door policies, to be fair you might as well knock down the walls if ours are anything to go by. Now I am not saying anyone is particularly loud, but added together the noise of a busy office may detract from how much can be achieved in any one day.


For organisations that have a number of employees who spend more time on the road rather than in the office, hot desking may have a number of benefits. For example, the parent organisation may be able to utilise a smaller space saving money on rent and associated overheads. However, there are a number of downsides too:

•    You may find the desk you normally use, being used when you go into the office. Whilst this may be OK – what happens if the computer you use has specific applications and programs related to your job on it AND it is being used by someone else? It doesn’t matter if you move to another desk you are still not going to be able to do the work you were being paid to do.
•    People move things. I worked with one organisation for 1 day a week recently, each week I could almost guarantee stationery items such as staplers would disappear, and any pens that weren’t tied down were never there when you got back. And one day I arrived to find someone had taken the chair. When you are being paid by the hour it is very frustrating not to mention expensive for the client to pay for your time as you try to find / replace them.
•    You cannot personalise your workspace – if you have to carry everything with you – do you lack connection to your workplace and fellow employees? Studies have said this is in fact the case.
•    Work habits have to change
•    Employers / Supervisors have to trust you – especially when you are “working from home” or on the road. However, this does work both ways – if you are contracted to an organisation for a number of hours, and there is no chance of being paid overtime – make sure you don’t do more hours than you are being paid for.

Connected to the grid:

It’s becoming easier than ever before to remain connected to your network when you are supposed to be “working”. Even organisations who tie down their Internet connections to prevent their employees accessing “inappropriate” sites and material cannot prevent use of mobile devices during work time.

Of course there are obvious signs work is not being completed, too many “personal” phone calls and time away from desks being too of the easier to spot, but mobile apps?

Whilst some employers don’t mind you spending some time checking your personal emails during working hours it is important to ensure this does not creep further into your day, after all there is lunch time and before official start times.

Believe it or not there are still people who access inappropriate material via their work computers and bandwidth. That could include anything from the racy jokes to the scantily clad etc. If you do have friends who insist on sending links and other items to you, please make sure they have your home email address …

With many thoughts