posted February 19, 2018

Is The Office Killing Your Productivity?

Beka Carson

At times, as I’m sure most can attest, we feel the pressure to get more work done. It can seem as though we’re constantly faced with tighter deadlines, higher demands, and less time to meet them. When feeling this pressure, where do you go to ensure you get your work completed? Perhaps it’s on your commute, at a local coffee shop, or sitting on your couch. For me, it’s at the desk in my bedroom while wearing headphones. The reality is that so few of us claim our workplaces as our ideal environment to get work done. Why can’t we seem to be our most productive selves at the office, the place where we spend our working hours?

If we’re intermittently abandoning our work to join internal meetings, client calls, or team-building workshops, we lose time and focus spent on our projects and tasks. A study by the University of California Irvine shows that once we are distracted, it can take almost 25 minutes to regain focus on the original task at hand. Now, multiply that by how many times during a day you may be distracted, and you can see how the office culture can be the antithesis of getting work done.

Ditch the office?

A few months ago, the Dagger book club read “Drive” by Daniel Pink. In the book, Pink shares the idea of R.O.W.E.: Results-Only Work Environment. Essentially, R.O.W.E. means that employees are given free rein of their days and agendas so far as their work (i.e. results) gets done. That’s right; no mandatory meetings, no “clocking-in” at 9 a.m., and no supervision of your days. Initially, the concept seems incredibly bold. How can managers be sure their employees are working and not sleeping, shopping, or traveling? Who’s holding them accountable?

Consider for a moment, though, that R.O.W.E. can increase productivity. When working hours aren’t structured around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., employees can adopt a schedule that’s more suitable for them and their productive nature. For example, someone may work for a couple of hours in the morning, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., then again from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., completing their work. The point of R.O.W.E is that employees are compensated based upon their results, not the amount of time it takes to complete the work. Rather than making sure they’ve hit their 40 hours a week, employees only need to focus on delivering results.

Aside from a boost in productivity, it’s also worth noting that more flexibility can positively affect your company’s culture. Being trusted to get one’s work done autonomously can lead to employee satisfaction, which in turn decreases turnover. Additionally, when employees can afford to structure their work around doctor’s appointments and vacation, they use less sick days or time off. Due to these benefits, companies that utilize R.O.W.E. can save money, and employees that work for R.O.W.E. companies can be their most productive, fulfilled selves.

A less-extreme approach

Obviously at an agency, we work very collaboratively. It would not be realistic for all agencies to adopt R.O.W.E. at face value. Strategists and creatives need to huddle to share ideas and insights. Managers and juniors should meet to align on projects and expectations. However, maybe there’s some credit to be given to business executives who allow their employees to determine their own schedules or work environment as long as work is done (and done to the company’s standard).

At Dagger, we’re going to implement a “policy” that prohibits any meetings on Wednesdays, meaning many of us wouldn’t have a legitimate reason to come into the office. Wednesdays will be for fully focusing on work with no distractions allowed. When everyone in the company supports the effort to allow employees to have more headspace and freedom to think and get work complete, there’s no judgement for working from home, leaving the office early, or showing up after lunch. I’m excited that my company recognizes the 9 to 5 office culture as outdated and hazardous to productivity. While there are many benefits of collaborative meetings or an open floor plan, some elements of the office can impede output rather than facilitate it.