Why "Out of Offices" can Boost Your Company's Bottom Line


So here's a fun, albeit scary fact: if you're doing something that requires focus and are interrupted by anything - say, a co-worker asking for help - it takes approximately 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the original task at hand. That's not even counting the time it takes to address the actual interruption.

When I heard it, it made so much sense, especially in relation to my former life as a copywriter in an ad agency. Ad agencies are notorious for their insane hours; it drove my family to wonder, often aloud, why I couldn't have just worked harder at math so I could find work at a bank and have some semblance of a normal schedule.

But here's an observation about many industries, not just advertising - most of the actual work takes place outside the actual business hours; hardly ever during. In fact, according to Inc.com, a whopping 76 percent of workers say they're more productive when they're not in the office. A report for Microsoft for Anywhere Working in 2012 backs this up with findings that four out of ten employees said they felt more creative when working out of the office.

A survey from online service FlexJobs has employees citing distractions such as "interruptions from co-workers, a distracting atmosphere, office politics, uncomfortable workspaces, and the stress of commuting." The survey went on to report that "thirty percent of respondents said they’d take a pay cut of 10 to 20 percent in exchange for outside-the-office work options, and 42 percent would give up perks to get them."

This is true everywhere, but in the Philippines, those issues are directly related to the largely traditional approach to work schedules and workspaces still in place - that is, 40-hour work weeks and clumps of cubicles with smaller offices for management. But times and mindsets, aided largely by technology, are a-changing. Many of the newer companies are opting for large "open offices" with communal areas and minimal walls. Still, according to an article by Forbes, both the old-school cubicle and the new open plan setups butt heads with how our brains are wired. That is, today's worker requires a change of work scenery based on "the time of day, the task at hand, and what exactly we're trying to accomplish."

So what exactly does that mean for workers and management of today, right here and now? Thankfully, that it doesn't warrant a complete office renovation - nor do you need to sign your souls over to Starbucks in order to boost productivity.

First, that it may be worth taking a good hard look at the work atmosphere present in your office. How conducive is it to actually getting things done? It may be as simple as designating certain areas as quiet zones, where no one is allowed to talk or disturb each other.

Another immediately actionable option is to encourage workers to "walk it off." This approach is originally a sports term. Coaches who knew a player was injured would pull them out of the game and order them to "walk it off", that is, stretch the injury by walking up and down the sideline. Nowadays, it's commonly used for people frustrated with a task that doesn't seem to be going anywhere - a feeling all of us have had at one point or another. Just getting up and leaving one's desk can help clear one's head, sort out thoughts, and get some perspective (especially if you can get to a park or anywhere that puts you in touch with nature, since research shows that this improves focus and helps us dial down aggression). Think of it as mentally hitting refresh (because, well, that's better than hitting a wall). 

This applies to whole teams as well. Gone are the days of being limited to working in coffee shops, where confidentiality is sketchy at best and the distractions, too many. Now there's the option of serviced offices, much more accessible than we once thought. Today such options are much more reasonably priced than hotels, with an ever-widening array of business and concierge services. Teams can choose to either work in smaller groups or go in for department-wide meetings, considering how flexible these working spaces are. The best ones are strategically located within the Makati Central Business District, just far enough from the office to create some distance from interruptions; but near enough so you can dash in if needed. Your team gets a clean slate with which to work, a neutral space where they can focus on their tasks at hand, unfettered by constant reminders of their workload.

The long and short of it is that getting out of the office can provide all your employees the much-needed some time to foster a happy and productive attitude towards work that will, in turn, make them more productive in the long run. Happy workers pass that on to customers and clients; so as far as your bottom line is concerned, things can only go up.