One surprising result of lockdown was that productivity increased. This was particularly true for people who deal with numbers and words (as opposed to people and things). Partly this was due to working hours increasing, but we also heard time and time again from clients that, whilst they missed the social side of the office, they also realised how distracted they had been when they were there. From general background noise to bored colleagues striking up a conversation, to meetings that meander and take up the whole day (unless you follow our tips on how to meet effectively) modern offices are designed to foster collaboration but are a million miles away from nurturing focus.
Introduce a traffic light system (…) Red would show that you’re in deep focus mode and should only be interrupted if the building is on fire.
One of the solutions to this is something we outlined in an earlier post about using workshops to bring people together to collaborate and plan and then allowing remote working for individuals to execute and focus. However, this approach won’t work for everyone, so we’ve put together a few ideas for how to set up your office to be more conducive to focus as and when everyone returns to work.
Set up a library. Ok, not an actual library full of books (although as a nerd that would be my dream), but a library in the sense of having a space for silent, individual work in the same way that schools and universities do. Depending on the size of your office, you could repurpose an entire floor or a large meeting room. If you want to be really diehard about it, make it a tech-free zone: if your work is strategic or creative then having time with pen and paper, away from the clattering of keyboards can be incredibly beneficial.
Establish focus times. If you can’t create an actual space for it, create set times in the week during which the main office space is dedicated to focused work. If anyone needs to chat, they should go into a meeting room or outside for a walk. Even one afternoon a week could make all the difference. If you feel like your company is a little addicted to meetings about meetings, you may want to also make this a meeting-free zone.
Introduce a traffic light system. When I was at school, our IT teacher had a system for us to ask for help and indicate how we were doing. We had 3 pieces of coloured card attached to our computers and we were responsible for using them to show how we were getting on. A similar system would work well in an office, whether you use card or different coloured sticky notes stuck on the back of your laptop. Green would indicate that you’re open to collaborating / being interrupted. Yellow would indicate that if it’s urgent, your colleagues can come and ask you. Red would show that you’re in deep focus mode and should only be interrupted if the building is on fire.
Collaborative working and the energy that we get from being around others and meeting in person is something that most of our clients are looking forward to enormously and is undoubtedly a huge benefit of getting back to the office. However, if that comes at the sacrifice of any time to focus, it is likely that people’s productivity and even the quality of their work will suffer, as we simply can’t do our best when we’re distracted.
If you want advice on how to manage the transition back to in-person working, get in touch by dropping us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, we’d be delighted to help.