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At Slangbusters, we are always either creating or consuming.
It is not possible that you work the full hours of your day. Absolute productivity is a myth that the punch-in machines don’t let the management see.
So what do we do when we are not working?
It’s not about optimum utilization of your time, but in a way, it is a better use of time.
Do an internal survey- go ask everyone in the department managing your team and ask them what could be the reason for a drop in the speed of getting things done. Most of the time, the blame will go directly to unproductivity and indirectly to, well, you.
You do not need a survey to know that many workplaces have put blockers on social media websites, have their employees put their mobile devices in lockers before they enter with a biometric sign-in to keep a track of how much time they spent working. Some even have trackers on the systems they work on to track their activity. Well, if you are from a creative field, these practices might seem barbaric and unrelatable but it is as common as it can get.
Is this productivity though? Not claiming that these are wrong methods but they do disapprove of a psychological phenomenon called overload unproductivity. Such methods might be contributing to even more unproductivity- especially when quality matters. In creative industry workplaces, similar burnout is experienced which we call creative exhaustion.
Wasting time VS investing time
Slacking, Shirking, foot-dragging, loafing are some common jargons used for wasteful time or unproductive time an employee spends at the desk. Undoubtedly, this time contributes to even better productivity when they are actually working.
Employers love to call this distraction, and why not, since studies say, most people are caught watching Netflix or window shopping on their favorite brand’s website, apart from when they are not on social media.
Although this is not wasting time, since such breaks are necessary. Mind refreshing activities are an investment.
In his book Bonjour Paresse, author Corinne Maier talks about professional detachment. A phenomenon because of which work is reduced to make-believe. In Maier’s words, “image counts more than product, seduction, more than production.” It is about feigned obedience and fake commitment. Rather than work being about what you do, this phenomenon results in it being how you look when you are doing it.
That is time wasted.
Faux or Fact: A German employee admitted to doing nothing for 14 years in his retirement email.
Environment and culture
There is a reason why employees loathe Mondays and crave Fridays and this is a solvable issue. Work doesn’t have to feel like work is a cliche that stands against professionalism.
Team building activities that HR departments might be a common practice at your institution. As much as they are useful, it acts as an introverted employee’s nightmare.
Contrary to work cultures where even longer lunch breaks are frowned upon, the Japanese let their employees take power naps. We have heard about the perks of working at Google. Why do these firms have such lenient work policies?
With such leniency, the expectation of quality also increases. And these leniencies are designed to accelerate the quality of work in the peaks of productivity.
The environment, setting also matters.
At Slangbusters, we constantly try to build a culture that is inclusive of consumption as a part of ‘work.’ For an industry where we constantly create, consumption becomes necessary. Without knowledge, whatever we create loses matter. One of the many culture-building experiments that stood the test of time is Topical Tuesdays. It is the second day of the week, and studies show that Tuesdays are a peak of productivity in the week. We also experienced Tuesdays to be a tad bit boring. So the second day of every working week, we add an element of knowledge gathering and sharing by consuming a piece of art; whether it is a film, a painting, a podcast or a Youtube video. This must not necessarily be relevant to work, but must somehow add to the perspective of all Slangbusters. This session is followed by a hearty discussion of what we learned, liked and loathed. This way we add to our perspective from other perspectives and grow as a team.
Humans are beings of variety. No matter how passionate we are about what we do, when we do it 40–50 hours a week for years, we reach a point of exhaustion or dislike for that job. Over time, the job could lose substance for you. To avoid that, use the slow days, use the downtime strategically.
Common practices include cleaning your desk, organizing documents, checking up on personal tasks, updating portfolio, plan the coming week, networking with colleagues, read up blogs about the industry to get updates, or introspect.
The last one becomes quite important. A common practice at our studio includes documenting the process of a new task as and when we do it and then, after delivery, we look back upon that process to see what are some avoidable mistakes that prolonged the process and make it tighter for whenever we have to undertake it the next time. One example is when our writer (me) was repeatedly facing creative blocks, with the help of a fellow writer and the CBO, they collectively experimented new methods of research and production to bring back the frequency of blog publication up to speed.
In a more non-creative, rather, non-media setting, it’s safe to say that they experience more burnouts because of the type of work. A very innovative way of strategic slacking was this one blockchain engineer making use of break time to write blogs about what he learned while working on the projects that he was on. Blockchain being a relatively new industry, required the inside knowledge of a developer. This way he not only helps himself but also, fellows in the industry.
Time away from work, or when not working doesn’t have to be wasteful, it almost never is. In periods of natural downtime, it becomes necessary to catch a breath. If this time is used consciously and strategically, more benefits can be reaped out, both- at a personal and professional level.
It has been long since the Italian philosopher Thomas Aquinas said, “to live well is to work well” but it still remains relevant since we work with a sense of purpose and a will to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.
— by Manas, Content Strategist, Slangbusters Studio