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TED Talk Tuesday: How to Create a More Productive Workplace

Cornerstone Editors

This post is part of our monthly TED Talk Tuesday series, spotlighting can't-miss TED Talks and their key takeaways. You can learn more about our partnership with TED here.

Jason Fried is a software entrepreneur and co-founder and president of Chicago-based collaboration software Basecamp. Fried is also the co-author of the book Rework, a reimagining of the way we work and create. In his TED talk, Fried asks audiences to consider why people can't seem to get work done at work, and what unconventional solutions we can create for the problem.

Watch the video below and read on for four key takeaways from his talk:

"People go to work, and they're basically trading in their work day for a series of 'work moments.'"

Companies spend exorbitant amounts of money renting or buying office space and equipping it with everything they think their employees need to be productive. Then why do people rarely answer "the office" when asked, "Where do you really want to go when you need to get something done?"

Fried compares work to sleep. Like sleep, you need long stretches of uninterrupted time to really be productive with work. Managers can't expect team members to complete tasks or be creative in a 15- to 30-minute widow in between meetings. He identifies the biggest enemies of productivity at work as managers and meetings (what he refers to as M&Ms). Managers interrupt work to make sure that work is getting done and meetings eat away at long stretches of time that would allow people to think and create. So how can employers improve this unproductive office environment?

"Four hours of quiet time at the office is going to be incredibly valuable."

You've heard of Casual Friday, but how about "No-Talk Thursday"? Fried says that if employees are given roughly four hours of uninterrupted work time once a month, they will openly thank you for it. This prolonged quiet time will be productive and valuable to the company and its employees.

"[Replace] active communication and collaboration... with more passive models of communication."

There's something that physical workplaces can learn from the telecommuting workforce. Fried recommends making a switch from in-person active communication to passive models like email, text or instant messaging. These electronic-based methods of communication can be turned off or snoozed, and that allows employees the opportunity to choose when they want to be interrupted, allowing them to finish a task before responding to a message. Typically, nothing is so urgent that it needs to be addressed instantly.

"Just cancel that next meeting."

Finally, Fried questions the necessity of meetings. He challenges "enlightened managers" to cancel, not reschedule, the next internal meeting. Meetings spawn other meetings, and frequently eat away at the ability to complete work. Fried believes that after cutting down on inessential meetings, managers will discover most get togethers aren't as essential as they thought.

Photo: TED

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