Working in an office can be great for morale but it can also have a negative impact on employee productivity. The average office worker is interrupted or has to switch between tasks once every three minutes and five seconds. Add up those interruptions and we’re looking at 28 billion wasted hours each and every year. Is there anything to be done?
Deep work could be the answer.
While it’s never going to be possible to remove all workplace distractions, switching to a culture of deep work can certainly help to boost employee productivity. So how can you go about implementing some of these strategies in your own office?
What is deep work?
This concept of deep work was first introduced by Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. The theory is that working in a state of sustained concentration – with no distractions – can challenge our cognitive abilities. The result is a state of total focus that can help to increase productivity and get those big tasks completed to the best of someone’s ability.
In contrast, shallow work involves any tasks that don’t need a huge amount of brain power. Employees can usually carry out shallow work like replying to emails, scheduling meetings, and invoicing successfully while being slightly distracted at the same time.
Encouraging employees to start using deep work strategies over the course of their working week is a great way to help everyone work as productively as possible. And switching off the computer at the end of the week knowing you nailed a challenging task is a great feeling!
The following tips can help you start to encourage a culture of deep work in your own office.
Work in blocks
One of the main distractions in an office is other workers. Sometimes the chatter of an office can become distracting if someone is trying to concentrate on a sales pitch or writing the perfect landing page.
Encourage employees to aside blocks of time for deep work. It’s even better if these are scheduled on a shared calendar so everyone can see each other’s blocks and respect that virtual “do not disturb” sign. For some offices, coordinated blocks of deep work might work well. For others, everyone might choose to schedule different blocks depending on when they feel most productive.
Schedule no-meeting days
Meetings can end up swallowing a huge amount of time over the course of a week. On days with back-to-back meetings, employees might feel like they didn’t manage to achieve anything significant in those small gaps between meetings.
You might decide to set aside one or two days every week as a no-meeting day. If employees want to get stuck into creating video content or tweaking an email marketing campaign in a bid to boost engagement. These kinds of tasks are perfect for deep work, and having to stop concentrating to attend a meeting can leave employees feeling frustrated.
1. Help employees find their productivity style
Each of your employees’ deep work rituals will look a little different. Some people will shut out distractions with noise-cancelling headphones, others might prefer listening to instrumental music, which can boost productivity for some.
Thinking about the following factors can help employees figure out what their deep work routine might need to include:
- Location. Deep work is easiest to achieve in a quiet space where employees can focus without distractions.
- Duration. When first starting deep work, blocks of 15-20 minutes are a good target. Employees can then gradually increase this to find their perfect block length for their deep work tasks.
- Structure. Everyone’s deep work structure will look different. Some people prefer to move around as they think, others will stay at their desk. While snacks and drinks might distract some people. They’ll be essential for others.
- Requirements. A successful deep work session may depend on turning off email notifications, switching phones to silent, and making sure everyone else in the office knows you’re not to be disturbed.
2. Cut down on communication
It might sound counterintuitive, but cutting down on at least some channels of communication can help improve the ability of your employees to work deeply effectively.
Employees don’t only have to deal with emails and phone calls these days, but also navigate multiple workplace tools like Slack, Asana, and Trello. While these are all great ways to communicate quickly with multiple team members, they can also swallow a huge amount of time. Focus can often be lost when a message that requests a quick response comes in.
Let your employees know that they’re not expected to reply to messages immediately, and it’s totally okay if they want to shut those apps down while they’re within their blocks of deep work. As long as everyone sets aside some time during the day to check their messages, responses don’t need to eat into deep work time.
Deep work equals better work
Encouraging a culture of deep work within your office can make your employees feel more valued – they know you respect their time and are committed to helping them find the strategies that work best for them. And you’ll likely see a spike in productivity as a result.