Productivity and the measurement of it started out with the Industrial Revolution. The machine provided us with a staggering increase in output.
In the Roman Empire, it would have taken a man-month’s worth of effort to produce enough fabric to produce a dress. Imagine if every T-Shirt in your cupboard took 3 weeks to produce!
That all changed with the cotton gin and the weaving machine.
As these machines started being utilised heavily, several studies were performed to measure human productivity in factories. Productivity to those scientists meant doing more in the same amount of time.
As a result, unfortunately, productivity became correlated with activity.
Today we live in a world where “data is gold”; where thought workers get paid the most. In such a universe, thoughts, ideas and an alternate way of thinking through problems are valuable. Have you seen a person who is thinking or coming up with an idea?
They would all look like they are staring at a wall doing nothing.
In fact, whenever I speak to an entrepreneur and they are running in-between airports and tell me, “I am travelling”; I am sure they are unproductive. But in the eyes of the world, they are running pillar to post, they must be productive.
Our obsession with activity makes us think that a person should be active when productive; but in a knowledge economy, it is often hard to discern when a person is being productive at all.
I was sitting in the toilet going about my morning routine when the idea for this blog came up. I was more productive on the pot than when I sat on the laptop translating those thoughts into words. I am sure, all of us have come across similar instances of an idea or a solution coming to us when we were driving or running on the treadmill or washing utensils.
For a knowledge worker, it is not about what the hands are doing, it is about what the mind was doing. Organisations need to realise this and learn to do things that will encourage this.
This is the crux of the work-from-home vs work-from-office debate.
Is a person only productive when they sit at a desk in front of the system in an office?