Nine years ago we decided to leave our normal jobs and to start our own business venture. Having worked for companies such as IBM, Motorola, and HP, we had benefited from excellent experiences, but also from consistent errors that we saw which we did not want to repeat in the future: interruptions.
Interruptions are those things which destroy your concentration while you are carrying out your tasks. In this article by the Washington Post, they show how interruptions can cause someone to lose up to six hours per day at work.
After meticulously analyzing all of the interactions that take place during the work day, we were able to distinguish that there are essentially four key interruptions which must be eliminated if you want to increase your productivity and consequently improve your company’s results:
1) No Emails.
It all starts with the most basic thing you use for communication: email.
On average, you need between three to four continuous hours in order to reach your optimal level of work.
If you are in the middle of a project and you receive an email, you will most likely read it and give a response, which creates an interruption that according to you will cost five minutes, but in reality it is a lot more because the time it takes for you to regain concentration and return to your optimal level of work can be up to 30 minutes.
Intel carried out a study where they estimated that emails could cost big companies up to $1 billion, as it decreases the productivity of the employees.
Adding to this is the inconvenience of email, where everything communicated remains behind closed doors between those who sent it and received it.
After trying out various options in order to solve this problem in our company, we ended up developing our own internal work platform which basically lists all of the projects that we are currently working on and who is collaborating on each one. In this way, is someone has a question or needs to contact someone they must do it through this medium and the one who answers must be logged into the platform to do so. Therefore, if you are working you will not receive any email or notification, and once you are done with your four hours of continual work you will be able to log in and not until this time will you be able to give an answer.
Additionally, all this information is open to whoever wants to access it within the company and if someone wants to come on board of a project in the future, just by giving them access they will be able to so as everything is published in just one place, organized and up to date.
Today, several platforms exist like this for administering projects, which allow you to begin eliminating the use of emails in your company such as Podio, Jira, Asana, Todoist, Trello, etc.
2) No bosses.
If you would like to achieve maximal productivity at work, the best thing is to work four continuous hours in the morning, then take a lunch break and finally go home after another four hours with no interruptions in the afternoon. This is the ideal situation which will generate the best results.
You must understand that for creative people like engineers, programmers, writers, designers, and many other professions, each interruption is your worst enemy in generating results for your company.
For this reason, we decided to work without bosses. As the mid and long term goals (along with those responsible) are determined by the team during retreats every six months and also the fact that all of us have access to the platform for projects, where everyone can see what each person is working on, then the function of follow up and control by a boss becomes unnecessary.
Important: in order for this work method to be viable for your company, it is essential that you work only with proactive people, therefore focus your efforts on finding people that have this quality. We are all adults and we do not need someone behind us like a babysitter in order for each to do their job.
3) No offices.
After having offices for over two years we decided that the best office was not to have one.
It doesn’t matter how nice your office is, such as that which Google has, as the interruptions there will end up having a negative impact on your company.
If you do a test and take a survey in your own business, you will see that when your employees are asked: “Where do you go when you need to finish a job on time and in form?”, they will hardly say the office. The places most used are: an empty room in their home, on the train or at a café.
The truth is that in the open office spaces which are common in today’s workplaces, avoiding any interruption such as a personal greeting, some commentaries by a co-worker, or being asked a question at the last minute is impossible. While if you work from your home, all of these interactions are made digitally which you can put off till later, when you finish your current tasks.
As can be seen in this article published by CNN, today’s modern office has become a factory of interruptions and working there is not viable.
4) Work four days per week.
Lastly, if you can implement the four work methods mentioned above, you will note how the company’s productivity level definitely produces results.
All of this improvement will give your company the possibility of offering a four-day work week instead of five. The number of tasks that your employees can carry out will be the same or even more than before.
This concept came to fruition upon understanding that it is impossible to achieve a proper balance between work and life if you work five days and are only left with two for activities such as house chores, family events, hobbies, sports, etc.
At the beginning, we decided to implement this method with just taking off one Friday per month. After a few months went by, we decided to take off every other Friday. Now, every Friday is a day off.
The advantages were surprising. To begin, every Monday we are completely recharged and ready to get to work. Especially in creative jobs where more time working or in front of the computer does not necessarily mean bigger and better results.
Another advantage point is the possibility of hiring and retaining top-notch professionals. Today, those who are extremely talented have job offers from all over the world and being attractive enough for them to choose you and stay with you is an important competitive edge.
Being able to dedicate 50% more of their time to family is a key factor (going from a weekend of two to three days). Furthermore, we are noticing that the employees request less days for doctors appointments. As Doctor John Ashton shares, working four days a week significantly reduces the level of stress. 44% of female doctors work four days or less per week and this figure is increasing yearly by 29%.
Recommendation: Don’t implement these five changes all at once in your business. Instead start with one, observe the results, make the proper adjustments in order to improve and then go on to the next step. This is a process that can take several months and even years, but the results will justify it: a better work method for you, for your employees, and consequently better results for your company.
This story and its experiences were shared by programmer Cristian Rennella, founder of PréstamosOnline for Argentina. In his latest pursuits is the goal of improving the influx of artificial intelligence in Latin American countries.