Why Nothing Gets Done at the Office

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you ever feel like you don’t actually get much work done at the office, it turns out you’re not alone.

In this video, the co-founder of 37Signals, a company that makes online collaboration tools for small businesses, looks to debunk the myth that people are more productive in a traditional workplace setting like an office. According to Jason Fried, when employees are asked where they go when they really need to get work done, most will list places like coffee shops, libraries or sequestered areas of their house, but very rarely will they say the office.

The reason for this, he believes, is that in a standard office setting, the work day is full of interruptions from your co-workers and bosses who nag you with questions, periodically assign you new tasks or pull you into meetings. As a result, rather than having eight or nine hours of solid time to do your work, you just end up with 15- or 30-minute intervals.

This, Fried says, is the difference between accomplishing “meaningful work” and simply completing little tasks.

“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,” Fried says. “You cannot ask somebody to be creative in 15 minutes, to really think about a problem.”

So what’s the solution?

Fried says the trick is all about limiting the interruptions posed by managers and meetings.

For starters, he suggests imposing “No Talk Thursdays,” one day a week (or even just an afternoon) where no one in the office, not even the boss, is allowed to talk, so that everyone can just focus on their work.

Likewise, Fried advises managers to cancel the next meeting on the company schedule, since it will likely take up more employee time than it’s worth.

With these and other measures, Fried argues the office may eventually become a place where work gets done.

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