I was revisiting a video of Jason Fried from 2010, where he argues that work doesn’t happen at work:
When I ask people — and I’ve been asking people this question for about 10 years –I ask them, “Where do you go when you really need to get something done?”I’ll hear things like, the porch, the deck,the kitchen. [...]And then you’ll hear people say,”Well, it doesn’t really matter where I am,as long as it’s really early in the morning or really late at night or on the weekends.”You almost never hear someone say the office.But businesses are spending all this money on this place called the office,and they’re making people go to it all the time,yet people don’t do work in the office.
What is that about? Why is that? Why is that happening? And what you find out is that, if you dig a little bit deeper, you find out that [...] people go to work, and they’re basically trading in their workday for a series of “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.
One of the best arguments against the constant interruptions in the office, and the destruction of the focused mindset needed to concentrate on creative solitary work.
Of course, not all work is solitary, but there is no doubt that some of everyone’s work is. I also believe that as people gain mastery in their work — when less of their time is dedicated to learning their craft, or getting feedback from others on a task by task level — then the need for uninterrupted and solitary work time grows.
Yesterday I wrote about disengaged workers, and it turns out that one of the demographic groups most disengaged are those with advanced degrees. My bet is that these folks have acquired a deeper mastery of their domain of work, and need more solitary time, and they grow disenchanted with the death by a thousand interruptions in the typical workplace that Fried describes.