TED Talk: Why work doesn’t happen at work

Excerpts:

That’s what happens at the office.You don’t have a workday anymore. You have work moments.It’s like the front door of the office is like a Cuisinart, and you walk in and your day is shredded to bits, because you have 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there, and then something else happens and you’re pulled off your work,and you’ve got to do something else, then you have 20 minutes, then it’s lunch. Then you have something else to do. Then you’ve got 15 minutes, and someone pulls you aside and asks you this question,and before you know it, it’s 5 p.m., and you look back on the day, and you realize that you didn’t get anything done.I mean, we’ve all been through this. We probably went through it yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. You look back on your day, and you’re like, I got nothing done today. I was at work. I sat at my desk. I used my expensive computer. I used the software they told me to use. I went to these meetings I was asked to go to. I did these conference calls. I did all this stuff. But I didn’t actually do anything. I just did tasks. I didn’t actually get meaningful work done.

And what you find is that, especially with creative people –designers, programmers,writers, engineers,thinkers –that people really need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get something done. You cannot ask somebody to be creative in 15 minutes and really think about a problem. You might have a quick idea, but to be in deep thought about a problem and really consider a problem carefully, you need long stretches of uninterrupted time. And even though the workday is typically eight hours, how many people here have ever had eight hours to themselves at the office? How about seven hours? Six? Five? Four? When’s the last time you had three hours to yourself at the office? Two hours? One, maybe? Very, very few people actually have long stretches of uninterrupted time at an office. And this is why people choose to do work at home, or they might go to the office, but they might go to the office really early in the day, or late at night when no one’s around, or they stick around after everyone’s left, or they go in on the weekends, or they get work done on the plane, or they get work done in the car or in the train because there are no distractions.

… Just silence, that’s it. And what you’ll find is that a tremendous amount of work actually gets done when no one talks to each other. This is when people actually get stuff done, is when no one’s bothering them, when no one’s interrupting them. And you can give someone — giving someone four hours of uninterrupted time is the best gift you can give anybody at work. It’s better than a computer. It’s better than a new monitor. It’s better than new software,or whatever people typically use. Giving them four hours of quiet time at the office is going to be incredibly valuable.

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