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Productivity: The Office of the Future

 In Business decisions, Insights, Productivity, Teams

Imagine an office where mornings are quiet, productive times where everyone can focus on doing great work, unphased by the ping of their phones, the interruptions of their colleagues and an endless circle of meetings. What would it feel like? Would it be more productive?

Since January this year we have partnered with leading design agency FutureBrand to create their office of the future. We’re not talking about how it looks, we’re talking about how their people work.

We collaborated with FutureBrand APAC CEO Richard Curtis, and their Sydney team to launch a productivity pilot from Feb-May this year. Each week they tried new techniques to be more productive, including: –

  • A daily stand up for 15 mins in the morning to cover what everyone is working on today and whether they have any impediments (a technique borrowed from agile development)
  • “Flow” time in the mornings – no internal meetings allowed, no non-essential interruptions allowed – everyone can focus on doing great work. This idea is taken from the realm of positive psychology and the idea that we need to get really absorbed into our work if we want to make it great.
  • Changing the reason meetings are run to focus on debate and decisions – not sharing information. This reduced the number of meetings substantially and they used other means to share information e.g. slack, email, noticeboards.
  • Capturing everything you need to do in an external brain. We piloted the use of Evernote to create a searchable collection of everything you needed to do. This approach builds on the world of David Allen in Getting Things Done.

We are now approaching the end of the pilot and looking to roll it out in their other offices. What did we learn?

Interestingly, the biggest impact has been through creating “Flow” time in the mornings, which is in turn supported by reducing meetings and having stand ups first thing. Comparing pre- and post- surveys of their team, they have gone from having 2.25 hrs on average of high quality uninterrupted time each day, to having 3.25 hrs. They have created an extra hour, or 44% more, time to do great work – without being at work any longer.

Even more than this, the new rules of engagement with the team means there is, according to design director Mick, “new found respect for other peoples’ time,” which he quotes as being the number one benefit of a “fantastic” change in the way they work.

They are also more focused on asking themselves whether they are being just “busy” or being productive. Before the pilot, 42% agreed that they often assess their tasks to see if they are working on “great work” and that rose to 68% after the pilot.

Plus their rating of “I am often distracted by emails, phones and people at my desk” fell from 76% to 40%.

So, if you find yourself being constantly distracted and multi-tasking and feeling busy instead of productive – there is something you can do about it if you can get your team on board trying some of these (or other) new approaches to productivity.