Keeping Up Appearances: The Demise of Productivity
We are all familiar with the traditional sense of time management, but how often do we manage a task by giving it an allotted amount of time, and in doing so, fulfil it productively?
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that employees who have the highest productivity are also the ones that work the least hours. With effective jobs lists, swift completion of tasks and good time management, we should all be able to set realistic time frames for our work and stick to them.
Furthermore, we must break the habit of planning a day’s worth of tasks to fit into the 9-5 day. According to Parkinson’s Law, if we have eight hours to complete our tasks, the tasks in hand will expand to fill this allotted time, when they could reasonably be fitted into a shorter time frame.
In other words, we should be looking to refine our to do lists, micromanage our time and aim to finish the day’s tasks well within the allocated eight hour working day. Simple? Not so fast. Tim Ferriss, author and entrepreneur, has identified an obstacle to this seemingly simple productivity formula – face time.
Face time dictates most workplace cultures, placing too much emphasis on being seen to put in extra hours and appear busy. Ferriss argues that this office trend is a disincentive for employees to be productive, as it encourages tasks to be drawn out beyond their realistic length.
With a record 5.26 million people doing unpaid overtime last year, the highest since records began in 1992, added to the fact UK workers work five hours more per week than the EU average, we should be looking at whether this office trend is self-inflicted, or the result of a vicious cycle of ineffectualness.
It must be remembered that the true meaning of productivity is the ability to measure results, rather than the amount of work that has been done. Therefore we must accept that working rapidly is more advantageous than convincing those in charge of our busy workloads.