By Mark Murphy
There’s an insidious attitude permeating many companies; that when employees have their bodies-in-their-seats, it means they’re productive. But if you’ve ever seen studies on actual employee productivity, or if you’ve ever forced yourself to sit at your desk for eight straight hours, you know that having a body-in-the-seat does not equal productivity. And the problem becomes especially acute when the body-in-seat mentality follows suddenly-remote employees into their home workspace.
Before the pandemic, a Leadership IQ study found that remote employees are 87% more likely to love their jobs than people that work in offices. Why? One factor is that normally-remote employees have figured out productivity hacks to enable themselves to spend more concentrated time on deep work. They’re able to focus without interruptions, and one way they accomplish that is with time-chunking. Unfortunately, that’s a concept that has been slow to permeate traditional working environments.
A study from RescueTime found that knowledge workers check email and Slack every six minutes, with more than a third checking email or Slack every three minutes. And 40% of knowledge workers never get more than 30 minutes straight of focused time. The email interruptions and lack of straight focus time help explain why knowledge workers, on average, have just 2 hours and 48 minutes a day for productive tasks.
By contrast, top freelancers, who’ve worked from home for years, have long known the fallacy of the body-in-seat mentality. And that’s why they’re more likely to work intensely for dedicated blocks of time.
Time chunking (also known as time blocking) is essentially carving out pieces of the day when you can disconnect from email (or Slack or IM, etc.) and focus on performing work that requires deep thinking. It’s not a complicated concept, and you’ve no doubt experienced the drastic productivity improvements that time chunking creates. It’s just like when (pre-pandemic) you worked from a coffee shop and accomplished more in one hour than you would have accomplished in eight hours at the office.
If you want to drastically improve the productivity and effectiveness of your remote team, start giving your team dedicated blocks of time throughout the day when they have to be online and other times when they can disconnect and work free from interruptions.
For example, you could set core periods throughout the day, e.g., 10 AM-12 PM and 2 PM-4 PM, when employees have to be accessible online (via email, Slack, IM, etc.). You could even add these three sentences to your work from home policy:
Employees must be available to their supervisors and co‐workers during core work hours. There are two core periods each day. The first runs from 10 AM – 12 PM and the second from 2 PM – 4 PM.
Making this kind of policy change offers several benefits: First, you’re giving your employees periods of the day when they’re allowed to disconnect, to focus deeply on their work without interruptions, and actually produce great results.
Second, having times throughout the day when they can disconnect allows your suddenly-remote employees that have kids to connect with their family. It can be chaotic having kids and spouses around. But when your employees have an hour to disconnect from email and check-in with everyone in the house, they’ll likely be able to restore some semblance of order. And that means when they come back to their desk, they’ll be significantly more focused and productive.
Originally posted on Forbes