David Allen on productivity while working remotely

John Forrister

GTD Connect
Staff member
We have a timely topic for you. With many more people worldwide working from home, this week David Allen will be recording his thoughts on how remote workers can be productive. Whether you've recently started working from home or you've been doing for years, we will have ideas for how you can make it more productive, and more fun. We hope to have this available for you within a couple of days.
 

Melissa Strayer

Minimalissa
One question I have for David and others: how to efficiency manage daily work-from-home status updates. Specifically, how to handle situations where a boss doesn't trust direct reports to actually put in a full day and so insists on detailed, emailed status reports on work completed and hours worked each day. I'm getting asked already for help on how to deal with these situations efficiently.

I create an all-day free event in my Outlook calendar called "Deliverables" that my team can see and in the notes I type in the things to work on and their status ("done", "doing", "do"). This is more for me than my (very reasonable and mature) boss: I get more distracted at home and I need more blinders to keep me focused! So it helps me be accountable to me, first, and in doing so I'm accountable and transparent to everyone else - without wasting an hour just preparing an update on what I did and when I did it. It preserves trust with little effort.

Another option for those without another reporting system could be to leverage the Completed list in Outlook: group by date completed, include and populate the actual hours field, copy and paste the list in Excel. And for some, maybe creating an Outlook category for COVID might help with keeping a longitudinal or cumulative record of what was done -- whether it be a task, calendar event, journal item, note, etc -- during this period. May be useful for Incident Command work situations.

I'm glad I had my @ computer and @ office lists before all this hit; these have come in very handy this last week.

Thank you for doing a webinar on this topic for us!

Cheers,

Melissa
 

John Forrister

GTD Connect
Staff member
One question I have for David and others: how to efficiency manage daily work-from-home status updates. Specifically, how to handle situations where a boss doesn't trust direct reports to actually put in a full day and so insists on detailed, emailed status reports on work completed and hours worked each day. I'm getting asked already for help on how to deal with these situations efficiently.
Cheers,
Melissa
Hi Melissa, really good food for thought. We'll do our best to work that into the discussion.

I've heard of bosses who want that much reporting, and don't realize that the reporting is reducing productivity. Having to read all those reports will also reduce the boss's productivity. IMHO, it points to an underlying cultural issue about trust. Which could mean a system issue about how an untrustworthy employee is there in the first place.

Yesterday I read this blog post from our friends at Todoist. It's not a two-minute next action, but well worth the few extra minutes. Full of nuggets about trust vs. control, blame vs. collaboration. You'll get the gist of it from the title and subtitle.

How to Build Trust in the Remote Workplace
The future of work is trust, not tracking.
 

TesTeq

Registered
One question I have for David and others: how to efficiency manage daily work-from-home status updates. Specifically, how to handle situations where a boss doesn't trust direct reports to actually put in a full day and so insists on detailed, emailed status reports on work completed and hours worked each day. I'm getting asked already for help on how to deal with these situations efficiently.
IMHO the remote work environment requires less granular delegation and reporting. I think Michael Sliwinski - Nozbe's creator and CEO has a lot to say about it. Nozbe is the #NoOffice company with the "Weekly Review Fridays". There are many posts on Michael's blog about his way of managing remote teams. @John Forrister
 

TesTeq

Registered
I've heard of bosses who want that much reporting, and don't realize that the reporting is reducing productivity. Having to read all those reports will also reduce the boss's productivity. IMHO, it points to an underlying cultural issue about trust. Which could mean a system issue about how an untrustworthy employee is there in the first place.
Too much reporting kills productivity but reporting is the mandatory part of the execution. Others must know what has been done.
 

Longstreet

Registered
One question I have for David and others: how to efficiency manage daily work-from-home status updates. Specifically, how to handle situations where a boss doesn't trust direct reports to actually put in a full day and so insists on detailed, emailed status reports on work completed and hours worked each day. I'm getting asked already for help on how to deal with these situations efficiently.

I create an all-day free event in my Outlook calendar called "Deliverables" that my team can see and in the notes I type in the things to work on and their status ("done", "doing", "do"). This is more for me than my (very reasonable and mature) boss: I get more distracted at home and I need more blinders to keep me focused! So it helps me be accountable to me, first, and in doing so I'm accountable and transparent to everyone else - without wasting an hour just preparing an update on what I did and when I did it. It preserves trust with little effort.

Another option for those without another reporting system could be to leverage the Completed list in Outlook: group by date completed, include and populate the actual hours field, copy and paste the list in Excel. And for some, maybe creating an Outlook category for COVID might help with keeping a longitudinal or cumulative record of what was done -- whether it be a task, calendar event, journal item, note, etc -- during this period. May be useful for Incident Command work situations.

I'm glad I had my @ computer and @ office lists before all this hit; these have come in very handy this last week.

Thank you for doing a webinar on this topic for us!

Cheers,

Melissa
I find this fascinating but it really saddens me that there are bosses that do this crap. There is a lot of evidence available in multiple studies that this hurts productivity and what one can accomplish. Maybe trust your people and only focus on what they produce versus an asinine focus on documenting their hours?
 

Longstreet

Registered
We have a timely topic for you. With many more people worldwide working from home, this week David Allen will be recording his thoughts on how remote workers can be productive. Whether you've recently started working from home or you've been doing for years, we will have ideas for how you can make it more productive, and more fun. We hope to have this available for you within a couple of days.
Looking forward to this! :)
 

Deirdre

Registered
I have been working remotely on-and-off for a while, both as a consultant and for work. I have had crappy supervisors and great ones so I have use a couple ways to document work and outcomes.

I share a OneNote with my supervisor and outline the week, track projects, upload documents, and check off what's been done. I also put in my Outlook Calendar what I have spent time on so it's visible (webinars, meetings, projects, etc). We are all on Teams and our availability is visible. I also document "head's down" time if I am reading or doing work I want distraction-free.

I also schedule lunch/walk-my-dog/get-outside which I would do at work anyway. And a few breaks to have a quick facetime, messenger, or text with a friend. It works great for me.
 

John Forrister

GTD Connect
Staff member
I have been working remotely on-and-off for a while, both as a consultant and for work. I have had crappy supervisors and great ones so I have use a couple ways to document work and outcomes.

I share a OneNote with my supervisor and outline the week, track projects, upload documents, and check off what's been done. I also put in my Outlook Calendar what I have spent time on so it's visible (webinars, meetings, projects, etc). We are all on Teams and our availability is visible. I also document "head's down" time if I am reading or doing work I want distraction-free.

I also schedule lunch/walk-my-dog/get-outside which I would do at work anyway. And a few breaks to have a quick facetime, messenger, or text with a friend. It works great for me.
Great advice. Thanks, Deirdre.
 

Longstreet

Registered
We have a timely topic for you. With many more people worldwide working from home, this week David Allen will be recording his thoughts on how remote workers can be productive. Whether you've recently started working from home or you've been doing for years, we will have ideas for how you can make it more productive, and more fun. We hope to have this available for you within a couple of days.
Any updates when this will be available? :)
 

Scott Allen

Registered
About ten years ago there was a book called Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. They advocate for a results-only work environment.
I understand the appeal of the ROWE concept, but in my experience, it's a significant challenge when you're in a role, team, or even organization in which nearly everything is an unknown. This is true with all creative work to some degree, but even with creative work, some things are fairly predictable: a content writer knows roughly how long it takes them to write a 1,000-word article; a data modeler can give a pretty good estimate based on the high-level scope; even a creative agency has a pretty good idea how long it takes to develop an ad campaign.

But problem solving? Completely novel innovation? How long does it take to come up with a good idea? An instant. But sometimes it takes hours, days, weeks, or months to come up with the right idea. I've had problems of comparable complexity that I've solved within minutes vs. others that took weeks.

How does one do results-based pay, or even performance evaluation, in that context?

Add to that the fact that we know that financial motivation actually has a demotivational impact on creative work. Feeling like you have to get the problem solved, or the new idea generated, as fast as possible, rather than coming up with the best solution, creates misaligned incentives.

I'm not suggesting the ROWE approach can't work, but I think it has to incorporate consideration for creative work with large unknowns.
 
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