Here’s what research tells us about work:
1. We have limited amounts of cognitive effort. Typically, we can do 3-4 hours of concentrated work a day, in periods of around 90 minutes. Beyond that, our cognitive capability declines sharply.
2. People who have friends at work report being happier, more purposeful and productive. They also stay in their roles 5x longer than those without friends.
3. If we are interrupted whilst in deep work, it will take 20-30 minutes for us to get back to the point we were at before the interruption.
4. People are motivated when they can have autonomy over their work, can exercise mastery and have a clear purpose. (Dan Pink, Drive, 2009)
5. The most important factor for high-performing teams is psychological safety. By a long way (Google’s Aristotle Project 2012-14). It is also essential for creativity and innovation.
6. High trust environments reduce the need for bureaucracy and control, enabling greater performance at reduced cost.
7. Diversity of people and inputs leads to greater innovation, more creative problem solving and better decision making. It also avoids group think and monocultures, which reduce performance and can be fatal.
And yet we have workplaces that:
1. Have increasing workloads, demand longer hours and lionise ‘all-nighters’ and other excessive work practices.
2. Frown upon ‘idle chatter’, or any time not spent ‘head down’ working, so that people have neither the time or energy to build relationships.
3. Have closely packed open plan offices that cause frequent interruption and distraction and/or work practices that demand constant monitoring of message apps and immediate responses.
4. Dictate when, where and how people work, infantilise their work and don’t explain how it delivers any value.
5. Operate on the basis of fear
6. Have rules and regulation that implicitly assume people are lazy, untrustworthy and deceitful.
7. Insist on and value conformity, both implicitly and explicitly, promoting ‘cultural fit’ and punishing misfits and mavericks.
These are just a few aspects that I came up with off the top of my head.
We know what works to create good workplaces, the evidence is not just there, there’s lots of it and it’s been there for some time. But ‘leaders’ have been ignoring for some time too.
They could Decrapify Work tomorrow if they wanted too. So we have to conclude they don’t want to, despite the rhetoric to the contrary.
So it won’t happen from the top. You have to do it yourself.
You have to start by decrapifying YOUR work. Create the environment around you that encourages good work, be the embodiment of the changes you want to see.
And follow the science.