Time management apps, list making apps, pen and paper, notebooks, sticky notes, ergonomic desks and chairs, quiet rooms…what do all of these things have in common? They are some (and only some) of the things people use to increase their productivity. While work productivity is an age-old and ongoing quest, there seems to be something curious going on with the current concept of productivity.
Is it the fault of Lean thinking, the Great Recession or something else?
There has been this line of thinking of somehow producing products, services or results with as few resources as possible. Some of this comes from Lean. And yet, more and more companies are trying to do more with less. There are workplace and technological trends that encourage this way of behaving. Nearly everyone has a smart device so it is easy to stay connected and work in other settings beyond the traditional office. So, if there are more tools and ways to be productive, why are there so many blog posts (yes, I’m guilty of writing those posts too) explaining how to be more productive?
The usual obstacles
One of the most frustrating obstacles is when you have to wait for someone else to complete a task before you do your next part. But there are some that are more personal like fatigue, procrastination, impulsively checking email or social media streams, illness, stress overload, multitasking, distractability and inattention. Organizationally, you may find your productivity hampered by poor communication, inconsistent policies, lack of coherent action plans, lack of appropriate resources and poor management.
Something more in play here?
I call it the “Cult of Productivity” but it could easily be the “cult of doing” or the “cult of business.” There seems to be this mindset that we must be busy doing. Somehow we are all being encouraged to act like workaholics regardless of how high or low we are in our organizations. This ignores the growing body of research providing reasons and correlations as to why working excessive hours and days is counterproductive and unhealthy. According to study in Pakistan by Subha Imtiaz and Shakil Ahmad of COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, “Stress results in high portion of absence and loss of employment. The ratio of stress affectees in organization are increasing on alarming rate which effects both the employee performance and goal achievement.” Their findings are similar to results in North American & European-based research.It’s as if an infection is growing globally that is putting pressure on every one to remain at work or that blurs the lines between work and personal time. This Cult of Productivity affects not only the bottom line but hurts people’s lives.
Just what are we trying to do?
Workers at all levels of an organization are often expected to have high workloads and tight deadlines. Work is getting done. But if we stop to look at productivity, what kind of philosophy or mindset is pushing all of us to work as constantly as possible?
Productivity – do we really know what we are doing? And why? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.
How do we define a “good day’s work” in 2014?
What does productivity really mean if many of us are knowledge workers?
What kinds of observations have you made about productivity obstacles?
Who sets the “rules” for how we define productivity?
If we spend so much time “doing” and fretting about doing, how are we changing what a productive life looks like?