Both employers and employees complain that you simply cannot work productively in the home office. That annoys me. Because: In truth, in most cases there are omissions on both sides behind it. A commentary on the true productivity killers.
I just have to say it. There is this one statement that really annoys me regularly in recent months: “The home office makes unproductive.” Or in a slightly modified form: “In the home office, you can’t work productively in the long run.”
Sometimes this is rolled out in epic breadth and sometimes just a short tweet or a sentence in an interview is enough. It is also clear to me that the home office can lead to problems if there is no real concept behind it.
4 True Productivity Killers: Where the Home Office Really Fails
Of course, it is essential that there is a close and personal exchange between the managers and the employees, but also between the employees themselves. Without this social kit, we would actually be lonely in the long run.
Here it is up to the employers to create the right foundations and conditions. In other cases and situations, workers must blame themselves. Because almost all selected productivity killers are not anchored in the home office, but in people and structures.
However, these problems are not solved if the companies blindly quote their employees back to the company headquarters. Instead, managers on the one hand and employees on the other have to work on themselves.
1. Meaningfulness of one’s own work
Let’s start with employers. One of the biggest productivity killers of all is the work itself. Anyone who, as a managing director, supervisor or department head, only gives stupid orders to his employees inevitably ensures that productivity decreases.
It is actually a banal fact, which is still all too often ignored. But: Every employee must know why he is completing a task and what goal is being pursued with it. “Because that’s your job, by the way.” is not a corresponding argument.
How can this be implemented in everyday life? Actually, this is all relatively uncomplicated. In the vast majority of cases, a subordinate clause with a justification is sufficient.
Instead of “By 10 o’clock I need the report from you today.” you can simply write. “Today I need your report from you by 10 a.m., because I have a phone call with our managing director at 10.30 a.m. and have to present our results.”
Without the explanation, many employees probably think: Why does it make me so stressed? With the explanation, every employee immediately understands what the cause of the time stress is.
Ultimately, it is about pursuing clear goals and conveying the meaning of a task.
2. Meetings and control structures
The second productivity killer in the home office for me is clearly meetings. Here, too, the managers again bear the responsibility to tinker with the existing structures, because as a rule it is not the employees who are responsible for the coordination and execution of meetings.
Of course, I am not calling for meetings to be completely abolished. They are important in order to promote the exchange among each other and to clarify some points quickly. Because a discussion in the Slack chat sometimes lasts an hour, whereby actually five minutes on the phone would be enough.
So how do all executives manage to hold better meetings? Actually, a few questions are sufficient as a guide:
- Who needs to attend this meeting? This then leads to the questions of which participants receive an invitation – and which do not.
- Is there really anything to discuss? If not, the meeting is not necessary.
- Which agenda items are there and who has to bring which information?
- How long should the meeting last? That means: Is a 15-minute slot enough for us or does it really take an hour? A clear appointment entry ensures that no one is tempted to get into the proverbial Labern.
Answering these questions truthfully turns meetings from a productivity killer into an effective and helpful means of communication.
By the way, the first question in particular ensures significantly more order in the mailbox, because invitations and requests for meetings and telephone calls do not arrive every 30 minutes, which are ultimately irrelevant and thus only tear the recipient out of his workflow.
3. Phone calls and unannounced calls
The third productivity killer in the home office – and thus we then switch to the side of the employees – are telephone calls. More specifically, I mean all unannounced, internal calls from colleagues or superiors.
What most workers have become aware of in recent months is that we all work differently. Some workers need more structure, others less. Some prefer to start at 6 a.m., others prefer to start at 10 a.m.
The bottom line is: productivity is very individual. In principle, there is no right or wrong, because we all need different methods to get the most out of ourselves. So productivity has a direct connection to respect.
If you are confused now, we want to explain the connection to you quickly: Apart from the fact that every company has (relatively) fixed attendance times, we can work (relatively) flexibly in the home office. Every employee must understand this.
Because this also means that we do not pick up the phone prematurely and interrupt a colleague in a deep work phase, but that we first write a short message whether it is just right for a phone call.
In the office, we wouldn’t just tear open a closed door with the sign “Please do not disturb” and start a conversation. That’s why my appeal to all the callers and frequent callers is: Please ask beforehand and don’t just call – and think about whether you really need this call.
This actually creates a smooth transition to the fourth and last productivity killer in the home office: multitasking. It has long been scientifically proven that we humans are not able to perform several things at the same time – at least not when the highest quality is required.
We can’t write in team chat and work out a working paper at the same time without making mistakes. We can’t effectively participate in a video conference if we’re constantly distracted by popping up emails.
And we can’t concentrate on our work if a colleague calls every five minutes and confronts us with a triviality that could have been clarified via chat message.
In this case, it is once again not the home office that makes unproductive, but it is ourselves who are the real productivity killers. We must finally say goodbye to the fact that we can do several things at the same time. This is simply not possible and contradicts our biology.
Instead, we need to learn to focus and complete one task at a time. For example, if you are distracted by e-mails, you can start checking your mailbox once an hour. You will notice: This works wonders.
In this way, we ultimately achieve more in a working day than if we try to do everything at the same time. In addition, the quality of the work done increases because we are concentrated and focused.
The home office is not a productivity killer
All these arguments show that it is not the home office that makes us unproductive. Rather, the home office is a mirror that reveals all the mistakes and problems that often go unnoticed in the office.
Therefore, both employers and employees should see the home office as an opportunity to rethink their own work and question established structures, because ultimately there is no more productive place to work than the study in the home office. I am convinced of that.