The focus factor vs. the office

What is telework’s central secret? Its ability to enhance the  level of teleworkers’ focus on their work. This both increases worker productivity and enhances their job satisfaction. Why? Because many, if not most, contemporary office environments are definitely not conducive to the level of focus required for work to be done efficiently and effectively. They suffer from low focus factors.

Here’s an example. Suppose you arrive at your downtown office after an “exciting” commute to work. You grab your first coffee, sit at your desk, try to relax for a few minutes then start to focus on today’s first task. Just as you’re getting into it one of your office mates wanders by and starts talking about last night’s ball game. You try to look absorbed but it doesn’t work to fend off your colleague. After a few more minutes of this she wanders off and you try to get back to your mindset before the interruption began. Cogitatio interrupto.

Now ask yourself how many times during your typical in-office day does this sort of distraction occur? How many minutes does the distraction last? How long does it take for you to get back to where you were before it started? If you work in the popular open plan office slum include such interruptions as the worker 10 feet away arguing with the spouse on the phone.

Our research indicates that as much as half the work day gets blown away by this sort of cognitive noise. It seems that we’re not the only ones who have come to these conclusions. Gary Silverman, in a recent opinion piece in the Financial Times, quoted a New York Times article “that showed one of the biggest reasons people hate their jobs is that they feel unable to concentrate on what they really need to do.”

Hello? If you want to stay focused avoid going to the office. Offices are for shmoozing not for concentration. Offices should be designed as collections of conference rooms but few are. The edifice complex still reigns in office design circles, with the 0.1 percenters in the top floors and the less influential people neatly arranged in the lower tiers.

Successful teleworkers, those who have arranged their work environments to be relatively interruption-free, find that their stress levels go down while their feelings of creativity rise. It’s the focus factor. As Silverman concluded:

The biggest rewards of corporate Focus with an upper-case “F” will probably go to workers who earn their keep with their heads. With employers who understand what’s going on in their world, these people will have a better shot at ordering their thoughts and doing “what is most enjoyed” – which is still, for many, a job well done.

Try it yourself. You’ll like it. And you’ll save energy and reduce air pollution.

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