I have been following the comments on a post at the excellent zenhabits blog entitled: Top 30 Tips for Staying Productive and Sane While Working From Home. The 4-Hour Workweek philosophy advocates liberation from the office - that freedom often being contingent on the ability to be more productive when working remotely. I thought the post might prove fruitful towards that goal, and as promised provides a great many tips. One tip in particular jumped out:
Don’t work an eight hour day. One reader works about 5 hours, in four blocks of an hour, with a 20 minute gap between each. If you do more than that, your attention might start to wander, you’ll be restless and your work won’t have it’s normal level of quality.
The astute and mathematically inclined among you will notice that five hours a day works out to a completely unreasonable twenty-five hours a week of time spent on work - hardly the four hours we seek - but hopefully you all get the point: quality of work trumps quantity of time spent.
However, it didn't take long for one commenter to come up with this criticism of the post:
For those of us lucky enough to work from home, you should work at least as long as you would do at the office, otherwise its called taking advantage.
With all due respect to the commenter, this kind of feedback is completely misguided, and typical of the 9-5 mentality that pervades the working world. Hopefully all employees, whether working in an office or at home, get paid to produce results that lead to the increased profitability and/or effectiveness of their respective organizations. Productivity should always trump any simpler metric such as hours logged. Good managers set objectives with their employees that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time specific. When management is poor, clear goals or an effective method of easily evaluating performance are often not in place, and managers revert to simpler schemes like hours spent on a task. This is naive at best.
Let's consider two employees that work at a market research firm. Which is better: the employee who produces a great report in four hours and goes to the mall the rest of the day, or an employee who spends over eight hours to produce a report that is substandard? At the end of the day, each employee is getting paid to write a report. As the owner of the market research firm whose profitability depends on selling reports, I would much rather have the very best report.
Here is another way to think about this: when you call a supplier with a customer service issue, do you actually care about how long their employees work each day? Of course not. What you care about it getting your needs met or your issue resolved in a timely manner.
There were some other tips that dovetailed nicely with the concepts behind the 4-Hour Workweek, such as turning off the telephone when you need to work without distraction (elimination) and designating certain days for certain work (batching). Overall, some useful advice, make sure you check it out!
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