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Published 15 August 2012 11:35, Updated 16 August 2012 04:16
Playtime ... Some work place time management techniques encourage regular forced breaks to bolster productivity.
The next time you catch your staff huddled around a desk – quite obviously focused on something other than work – know that good things can come from shirking work.
In fact some productivity experts even recommend instilling a culture of regular downtime, saying it can recharge creativity.
Take Francesco Cirillo. He created the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that encourages regular forced breaks to bolster productivity (and takes its name from the tomato-shaped “pomodoro” kitchen timer used to carry it out.)
It’s a five-step technique:
The technique came up on digital news site Mashable last week, after Google published another addictive Friday afternoon doodle, a soccer penalty shoot-out game.
But Mashable’s Chris Taylor defended a nominally wasted afternoon of Google doodling, arguing that “building a good chunk of downtime into your day isn’t just helpful in recharging yourself and your creativity. It’s essential.”
Career analyst Dan Pink would agree. In a 2009 TED talk, he said 21st-century business success is less about the traditional “carrot-and-stick” approach and more about three driving forces: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Pink points to real-life examples such as Google’s famous 80-20 rule, where staff are expected to spend 20 per cent of their time on innovation and the rest on core projects. The practice led to applications such as Gmail, Orkut, and Google News. Australian software company Atlassian used to offer staff 24 hours a quarter of autonomy to work on any company-related project before adopting the 80-20 rule.
US retail chain Best Buy introduced the system in their head office of 3000 workers. The result was a 35 per cent increase in productivity as employees started working at more convenient times.
And US insurance agency JA Counter and Associates cut expenses down 23 per cent and almost doubled net income after introducing a ROWE.
All of which suggests productivity isn’t just about keeping your nose to the grindstone – it’s also about finding new ways to make the most of the people and resources you’ve got.
Or as Pink puts it: “If we repair this mismatch between what science knows and what business does, if we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses.”