At TEDxMidwest, Jason explains why the office isn’t a good place to get work done. He lays out some of the main problems and offers three suggestions to make work, well, work.
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Aaron Mon 30 Nov 10
Nice. There’s a lot of great videos on ted.com. Definitely no exception with this one. Great talk, Jason.
Webscopiaon 30 Nov 10
We just did a review of 37signals.com and this video was in fact high-lighted. It did change my opinion and sure the opinion o four readers, to see if our old model of going to work every day makes sense any more.
Our review can be read here: http://webscopia.com/2010/11/work_from_home/
Dan Greenbergon 30 Nov 10
There are some intriguing ideas presented, but there’s not a lot of data or proof. Experience in very large organizations - ones which use IM and email extensively… and which have a significant number of employees working from home offices - tells me that Jason’s theories do not stand up at large scale. Think rowing:
When it’s a single, there’s no room for a coxswain (equals there are no meetings or managers).
When it’s a quad, you have with and without coxswain. There’s a trade-off between the extra weight of a manager… and the better synchronicity of the team and steering of the boat.
When it’s an 8, there’s a coxswain. There’s no question that a manager is needed, even if the team is finely tuned and well-practiced at working together.
So, I appreciate the talk, but I hope Jason comes back with data next time… especially data segmented by the size of the project/team.
Ranon 30 Nov 10
Inspiring talk! More and more people are getting to this same conclusion. We at Canfocus are working on what we beleive is a better solution than just not coming to work. We would appreciate your participation in the discussion we’ve started – http://www.canfocus.com/?p=557
pestaaon 30 Nov 10
May I ask how 37s addresses these issues at their new office?
A Guy From South Americaon 30 Nov 10
So why did you invest in a new office? I’m confused.
Holmeson 30 Nov 10
somebody didn’t listen to the last 3 minutes
JAMon 01 Dec 10
A couple of comments:
- Maybe lots of companies have meetings where nothing substantive is discussed, but where I work, I would definitely consider meetings ‘work’. We more often than not have extremely productive design meetings (for software or research projects) that we could not do without.
- It is much harder to train people that are working remotely. Remote work seems to make more sense for experienced workers.
- I do agree that there is a lot of interruption in many office places.
- A balance of in- and out-of-office work time is my ideal at this point. However, most companies do not allow such an arrangement.
JFon 01 Dec 10
Re: our office.
Our office is built around these principals. Quiet on the outside. We treat the space like a library. No talking other than a very short conversation or whisper here and there.
If people want to talk they go into an adjacent sound-isolated team room. They can talk there without bothering anyone else. We’ve also chosen acoustically optimized materials to keep sound transmission down.
As for pulling people off their work to have meetings, we rarely have them. We use Campfire.
Jasonon 01 Dec 10
Want to know when things really go wrong.
When the managers work remotely and employees in the office.
Najib Alion 01 Dec 10
Same messages from 37signals everyday. Not new.
Talking only to promote your products.
Dannon 01 Dec 10
”... for many people, a job is crucial psychologically, above and beyond the paycheck. By making CLEAR demands on their time and energy, it provides an element of structure around which the rest of their lives can be organized” – Michael Gerber, E-Myth
Can we replace “job” with “office”?
Matton 01 Dec 10
Interesting comparison between sleep and creative work. I’m not sure how far the analogy goes, but there is definitely something true about having to start over if you’re interrupted while writing code.
Henriqueon 01 Dec 10
There are some intriguing ideas presented, but there’s not a lot of data or proof. Experience in very large organizations – ones which use IM and email extensively… and which have a significant number of employees working from home offices – tells me that Jason’s theories do not stand up at large scale.
Gregon 01 Dec 10
Regarding proof: There is a ton of data out there about how long it takes someone to get back into the work they were doing after being interrupted. It’s something like 15 minutes. So, if you set aside an hour to get something done and you’re interrupted three times in that hour, you’ve essentially been able to do 15 minutes worth of work.
At home, on an airplane, early or late… I completely agree… any interruption is completely voluntary. I’m all about the no talking Thursdays!!
Jeremyon 02 Dec 10
While I agree with some of the points, especially:work is stage-based on there are far too many context interruptions for efficient work voluntary interruptions are better than involuntary ones many meetings are a waste of time
I don’t think the answer is to cancel meetings and not talk to each other. I think the problem is really that in an accelerating world, people are expected to do much more in much less time in order to compete. We focus on saving time on things rather than valuing the spending of it. I think this is dangerous because we’re always under seige, and the impulse is to “get it off my plate” rather than actually help to solve a problem. And THIS is where many useless meetings, emails, phone calls, and in-person interruptions come from – people don’t have the inclination or wherewithall to sit with an issue for awhile, strategize about how to deal with it, and then maybe even solve it themselves. Maybe it’s a chicken and egg problem, in which case cancelling a meeting or two might help.
But guess what – if you repeatedly come across the same issues (say) on a software development project – you’re going to need to have post-mortem meetings to discover what’s going wrong, write it down, and share it with others (which might require more meetings). If employees are complaining that they don’t know enough about what’s going on in the company, or that they don’t have enough access to the management team, you’re going to have to consider the value of informing them and interacting with them. If employees want to know how they’re doing on a semi-regular basis, you’re going to need meetings to collect and deliver performance reviews, and to set and measure targets.
Also, there is an assumption that meetings take longer than emails. I can communicate an idea to someone in 5 minutes that would take me 30 to write up in an email. And it would probably take them 20 minutes to understand the email, likely misinterpreting careless tone along the way, which would then require a meeting to explain.I think meetings that don’t do one of the following things are a waste of time: generate action items close out action items
So yeah – if you’re just talking into the air and accomplishing nothing, it’s likely you shouldn’t be meeting. but I wouldn’t demonize managers and meetings like this. I’ve been on both sides of the equation in my career.
The speaker also talks about the fact the twitter and facebook and websites are not an issue. I agree, unless of course they’re interrupting you. Yes you can choose not to be interrupted, but people don’t choose this – they LIKE having twitter open. And Facebook. They figure this data will just enter their heads in a non-interruptive, out-of-band, osmosis, and they’ll be able to have their cake and eat it too. But we all know this isn’t true. These things are huge time wasters for people who don’t have the discipline to turn them off. What percentage of twitter users do you think turn twitter off when they need to get stuff done? (keeping in mind, at work, 90% of the time you need to get stuff done).
GeeIWonderon 02 Dec 10
Let’s quit pretending we’re all radical thinkers and move to substance, shall we?
Does 37signals approve/disapprove of WikiLeaks? Do we approve/disapprove of Amazon abruptly shutting down their service under political influence (As is manifest in the Lieberman letter).
Patrick Fritzon 02 Dec 10
Perfect analysis, very few ideas to do it better!
Amaury Bouchardon 02 Dec 10
@Jeremy : Totally agree.
It’s pretty easy to blame meetings and working in office. But emails, IM and forums instead of a real good face-to-face discussion? (or even a phone one) Are you really sure you will lost less time?
This discussion is closed.