Productivity – Just What ARE We Trying To Do?

productivity, organization, workTime 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?

 

 

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Is Freelancing Becoming More Permanent Way of Working?

Are you entrepreneurial in your career? Do you work for yourself? Both of these questions have become more common over recent years. There is a sense of both disillusionment and frustration with the traditional 40 hour a week job model. For knowledge workers, in particular, this job model does not reflect how work gets done. For others, shift work has changed or extended unemployment has made it necessary to find alternative sources of income. Frankly, there are a number of workplace trends that add to how freelancing has become much more common.

So, what’s going on?

There is some interesting information globally about freelancing. According to a Elance survey, the top freelancing countries are

  • United States
  • Indiana
  • Ukraine
  • Pakistan
  • United Kingdom
  • Russia
  • Canada
  • Philippines
  • Romania
  • China

So this is not just a US phenomenon, according to Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, freelancing is disrupting the workplace. He writes that the trends for 2014 are

  • Freelancers will gain recognition as part of the workforce
  • Teams will be like movie crews
  • Voluntary job quitters will abound
  • Reinvesting in being people-focused rather than tech-focused
  • Careers will launch virtually

In a CNBC article, Elaine Pofeldt writes that the unemployment rate is dropping despite the slow job growth rate. Although she focuses on the US experience of freelancing, there are similar reasons across countries as to why people choose freelancing over a traditional job. According to “How Freelancers Are Redefining Success To Be About Value, Not Wealth“, there are strong attractors. In our Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, we’ve talked about how people are seeking more meaning and autonomy in their work lives.

So perhaps success is being redefined?

With the recent movie, The Wolf of Wall Street,  we are reminded of how success has been defined (and may be still defined). Traditionally, people who became successful are wealthy, connected and have a certain level of power. Freelancers could certainly have connections since networking is a key part of their marketing plan. But what about wealth or power? It seems “value” is more about work/life balance. Although wealth, power and fame are desires for some people, these often are also accompanied by working excessive hours, health issues and complicated personal relationships. This way of life is being rejected with more frequency.

More permanent way of working?

This is a curious question. Most people think that working for an organization is a more secure way of working due to regular pay and benefits. However, the last several years of economic turbulence has combined to make organizations more skiittish about hiring and employees less certain that they have job security or even that they want the day to day of workplace politics and a lack control over their time and energy.  Yet, it’s not all a bed of roses for freelancers. It is difficult to clock out when you are your own boss, there is often a feeling of feast or famine regarding work load and clients as well as difficult making sure that there is enough income to pay for health insurance, taxes or other financial obligations.

What do you think? Is freelancing the next trend in how people work? How will it change employment or even unemployment? Join us Friday, March 14, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

What does “freelancing” mean to you?

As freelancing becomes more permanent way of working, is it a variation of small business or something separate? 

How does freelancing change how work gets done?

Freelancing is often touted as positive way to manage & live life. What are downsides?

How does freelancing affect how we define success? 

 

 

 

 

 

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