Can work really happen at work?

Intrigued by the clever title, “Why work doesn’t happen at work”, I recently watched this Ted Talk by Jason Fried. He points out that when people really need to get some work done, they don’t go to work. They go to a place (a kitchen, the coffee shop), a moving object (a train, a bus) or they work at a special time (early in the morning, late at night). This is because work days, “shredded” by interruptions, are really a series of what Fried calls, “work moments”.

Work is the same as sleep: just as when you’re constantly interrupted when you’re trying to sleep, you can’t get a good night’s sleep. When you’re constantly interrupted at work, you can’t do any real work.

Fried blames “M & M’s” (Managers and Meetings) for the bulk of interruptions and suggests three remedies:

  1. No Talk Thursdays: Begin with the first Thursday of every month and ban talking all afternoon.
  2. Switch from active to passive collaboration. In other words, don’t get up and talk to someone or phone them but send them an email or an instant message.
  3. Cancel meetings, especially the regular ones.

I’m not sure that Fried’s three suggestions would work, but they certainly got me thinking about ways to increase workplace productivity in an office environment.

Can work really happen at work?

Questions for discussion

Fried’s first idea has been suggested by many others, tried (and failed) in many offices. Why do you think this is? Could it work at your workplace?

His second suggestion is counter to advice about humanising offices. What do you think of it?

How would canceling meetings go down at your workplace? Are all the meetings you hold really necessary?

Are you guilty of shredding your team members’ work days by constantly interrupting them?