Where are you and your employees most productive?

June 28, 2008

When you see someone walking in the airport with the little Bluetooth bud hanging from their ear and sounding very businesslike, do they seem like they are making things happen? You know the dialogue, “we are 150% over booked, we will need to get this issue resolved tomorrow or we will lose the deal.” No doubt if you are a business person today who travels, you have had similar conversations.

There is a whole language for our productive work life away from the office. If you get on the plane you will call the time from 10,000 feet (when you can start your laptop or other electronic devices) on takeoff to 10,000 feet before landing (when all toys are put away) “Air Time,” that is when you are likely the most productive in your work life. No one can find you, no phones ringing, no one stopping in your office interrupting while you were working on a document – just undisturbed, focused time.
You have likely made calls from your car – they call this “windshield time”. This is when you are productive while driving from one meeting to another. If you’re a lawyer traveling from your office to a client you would call this double billing. Then again, if you were a lawyer moving from one client to another and talking on the phone with yet another one, this is when you are triple billing. Billing the client you’re leaving, bill the client you’re going to and the one you are talking to on the phone. Don’t laugh too hard, I have known lawyers who bill like this – remember I am a non-fiction writer.
Perhaps you made an important call while you were in your hotel room while lying in bed. They must call this “Bed Time,” not to be confused with that time during the evening when you put your kids to bed.
We have become such productive creatures. Technology has allowed us to blur the lines of work and non-work life. This is not really advancement, I would imagine, to our ancestors long ago when there was little distinction between work life and home life. It was all about survival. We certainly can’t say this blurring today is about survival.
When you know you can be this productive while on the move, how come we don’t see more activities were we can enjoy our activities away from the office and still accomplish our objectives? Meaning, couldn’t we think of our office as more mobile and less of a ball and chain for us to be tethered to? For about eight years I had an office that over looked the north shore of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. The lake is about three miles in circumference . Or about a 50 minute walk. I can only think of a handful of times I would have my meetings while walking the lake. Either by getting the other person to come along for a walk or doing what we all do in the airport and hopping on a cell phone for a conference call while walking. What is it about us that make us believe we are any less productive in non-work environments than sitting behind a desk at the office?
This notion of finding more flexibility in the work place and thinking differently about time and productivity is getting a lot of press. Two women in particular, Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, who helped establish this movement called ROWE “Results-Only Work Environment” at Best Buy. Their recent book, Work Sucks – And How To Fix It is all about this phenomenon. Check out their website at culturerx.com.
Are you holding your team more accountable for what time they arrive or stay to each day or more about the objectives that they are accountable for within your organization? Are they mutually exclusive? Where do you fair on this topic?

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