As of today, about 1 billion people are in some form of physical isolation. One of my clients, a global financial institution, has most of its over 200,000 employees at home. Many of these people are encountering distributed work for the first time. Free of the office and the commute they might be able to focus on productive work, depending on their living arrangements. What most of us know — who already work from home — is that a good day is only a few hours of productive work. Knowledge workers cannot produce for more than that. Our brains can’t handle it.
“Thus, while it may be hard for some to believe, the eight-hour workday was initially instituted as a way of making the average workday more humane.
Now, the workday is ripe for another disruption. Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.
That’s right–you’re probably only productive for around three hours a day.” —Inc.com 2016
Let’s hope that management learns this very quickly. Management is removing barriers to work, not telling people what to do. So what can knowledge workers do with the rest of their work time — the time that was often wasted at the office with people dropping by, asking questions, or just some manager insisting on managing another adult who already manages a family?
One thing I have noticed in more than 20 years of consulting is that many knowledge workers, managers, and executives don’t have time to read. Now is a great time to get started on a reading list. Make it a combination of fiction and non-fiction. It’s amazing what we can learn from fiction in these chaotic times, even science fiction! And if we are going to read more, we can also write book reviews and summaries and share them with colleagues. Maybe there is even some time in the new remote work week to create a book club.
There are many ways we can learn professionally through social media as well. Consumer social media enable the rapid transmission of bite-sized information around the world. But this is also one of the dark sides of these media. In last year’s fast-paced world of keeping up to the digital universe, there just no time for thoughtful reading or expression. Twitter was originally called micro-blogging. It was the perfect tool to get out a quick note or a sarcastic comment. Journalists and politicians loved Twitter. Twitter is good for keeping in touch but not for deeper or more meaningful conversations.
Longer form expression can improve our sensemaking skills. Perhaps not every worker is ready to write a book, though that’s another opportunity in these times, but most people can write shorter form observations. Blogs are perfect for this. There is a wide variety of blogging forms, including daily journals, deep observations, industry insights, reflections, etc.
Think of blogs as slow media. This is my 3,298th post here. It has taken 16 years. My focus has evolved over that time as well as my frequency and form of writing. One nice thing about blogs is that there are few trolls because it’s much faster to send off a tweet than actually write a comment on a blog post. Plus you can easily delete crap comments from your own blogs. If more people engage in longer form writing and share through blogging, we may collectively address some of the challenges we will face as we enter the Great Reset of our society and economy. Perhaps slow media can slow the reversal effects of digital networks.