Productivity & being chained to your desk

I spend a lot of time thinking about the in-efficiency, of what feels like, being chained to my desk in order to show how productive I am. I’m not only speaking for myself, this is an observation I have made for a really long time, at many agencies I’ve worked at.

Working in a open plan office already bothers me, I’m introverted and while I’m comfortable socialising in small groups, working in a communal space makes me terribly uncomfortable. I prefer having a space to work in private, I simply get more done. But that isn’t the issue I have with working in agencies, it’s the perception that by being at your desk, staring at a computer screen all day equals productivity.

I have to problem solve, whether it’s strategically finding an approach to a business problem or coming up with a new look for a brand, it requires me to think. I think all the time, in almost any space. I find open office spaces more distracting than coffee shops. So I prefer to be out. But I think in the shower, while pushing weights and most especially, while taking long walks. While I don’t always have a pen and paper near I do jot down ideas on my phone, which is pretty much always near me.

The unfortunate thing is that most 9 – 5 companies don’t seem to allow you to be in the right place to think, their expectation is that you should be at your desk or a space within the agency. I’m not really sure what thats about. I get we need to work with colleagues, as a leader we need to be available to staff we manage, for meetings etc, but hey, if it’s scheduled, I will be there. Otherwise, I’d prefer to be free to think and work at my leisure. If I need to work with colleagues, do I need to go in the office, hell no. Why can’t we go brainstorm in a museum ,at suitable coffee shop or over lunch?

As a creative in this industry, we have few rights, we are not paid overtime and the expectation is that we will drop everything for our jobs. The least agencies can do, is allow us to work at convenient times and places of our choosing. By choosing when we work, we can avoid traffic that wastes a lot of time and causes unnecessary frustration. I’m sure I can think of a whole lot of reasons the company can benefit, but thats a post for another day. So for now, what might I propose as a suitable arrangement?

hhhmmmmm, let me take a stab at this …

  • I don’t like my inbox controlling me, so I’d welcome the opportunity to check my email as few times a day as possible. Starting with a quick check in the morning to make sure there is nothing urgent, no crisis that is unavoidable. I would then make a to-do list and make sure I am aware of any meetings I might for the day. It would help if the rest of your team agreed to schedule meetings, say between certain hours every day. I’m drinking coffee, eating breakfast, reading email … thats work, so it should be done during normal hours, not before the sun comes up, but say 8am at home.
  • I’d like to avoid the crowds at the gym, so after 9am hit the weights, do some cardio and do some research while I drink my protein shake. All while thinking about the problem I wish to solve. Who doesn’t have some pretty great ideas while they’re in the shower, so while freshening up, I’d bet the best ideas are brewing.
  • Ok a light lunch with the team at a local restaurant to run through ideas, debate the merits of each and give some direction for each team member to action.
  • Back at the office for a new briefing, coffee with one of the team to discuss a promotion and an internal review with one of the designers and then off to a client meeting. This is all perfectly normal work for a Creative Director.
  • Ok time for an afternoon snack and a coffee, while going through new email before heading for a walk along the promenade, thinking about the new brief or how to solve other challenges yet unresolved. A quick meditation and it’s off to discuss some ideas with your boss over  some sushi.
  • With a firm understanding of your seniors direction, it’s time to sit down and push around some pixels. So back to your apartment where you can spend some time with your partner, kids or dog before firing up photoshop and giving a design a good sprint.
  • A healthy amount of time switching off, unwinding so to speak before you hit bed, just remembering to put your notepad next to bed, incase you have any further ideas that pop up before you go to sleep.

To me, that sounds like a perfectly productive day, and I didn’t have to sit in that open plan factory desk like setup the whole day and I am getting the job done. Productivity should be measured by results, not the accumulated time you are perceived to be busy working. Ask yourself, whats your take on the perfect day being productive, without being chained to your desk?