Why Doesn't Work Happen at Work?

Most of us work in offices. Those of us who are lucky enough to work from home understand that it comes with its own challenges, but could working in an office be uninspiring? When people really want to do great work or they need to get things done, they often go to places like a park, the kitchen, the porch. Some people have specific times in which they get things done—maybe they work best in the mornings or very late at night.

So why are businesses throwing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars into big fancy offices? More importantly, why do people rarely ever say they want to go to the office to get things done?

“You don’t have a workday anymore, you have work moments.”

Between the meetings and things most professionals have to do that don’t directly relate to their own tasks or projects, the workday is lost in a million other things that don’t pertain to your work. Suddenly, it’s 5 PM and professionals are feeling unsatisfied in what they accomplished. In fact, studies have shown that people need long periods of uninterrupted time to actually get things done (common sense, right). How often does that really happen at work? How many times during your day are you left to quietly work for a few hours?

“When’s the last time you had 3 hours to yourself at the office?”

This sort of environment explains why some people arrive at the office 4 hours before everyone else, or they stay until 8 or 9 PM getting things done. Suddenly your 8-hour workday is turning into a 10 or 12-hour workday. That can wreak some serious havoc with your personal life and that legendary work/life balance.

Most of the distractions at work are involuntary, meaning that you really have no control over when and how often you’re interrupted or distracted. Some businesses block sites like Facebook and Twitter to discourage distractions in the workplace. However, according to the TEDx talk above, the majority of distractions come from “M&Ms”: managers and meetings.

So how do we change that? What do you think? What are your most productive places, or some of your least? 


Creative Commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Phillie Casablanca.