Jason Fried: Why You Can’t Work at Work

(via clusterflock)

26 Comments leave a comment below

  1. ‘interruptions are the enemy of creativity’? what?!

  2. this is so true!!! i think we should all work in cubicles where we won’t be interrupted anymore.

  3. While I agree with the sentiment about most workplaces being too conducive to interruption, I’m not sure that removing the human interaction of a workday is the solution.

    I use 37Signals products for all my freelance work and side businesses so I definitely love the products, but I think moving to the point where you sit next to someone all day and “hardly ever speak to each other” is far too isolating.

    I think the solution is the opposite- work socially in teams, collaborate and share ideas. Of course people need individual time for tasks, and technology and services can certainly be used to collaborate, but if you can only achieve success by cutting out the real-world interpersonal communication, then I think its likely you need to rethink your personal collaboration approach rather than scraping it in favor of an online suite of tools.

  4. experiencing these scenarios right now! interruptions keep happening

  5. I just stopped working to watch this. How’s he gonna solve that?

  6. I don’t buy any claims about not having a hierarchy. It might feel like this at the top of an organization but you are fooling yourself if you believe that this is what it is like for everybody else. Humans have a very fine sense for hierarchy and where they stand in that. You will always know where you stand in an organization and how much leverage you have. And this is totally independent of your job title, those of other, and whether your organization likes to thinks its hierarchy is flat or pretend there is even none.

  7. omg, can i go to his office and call his name and knock on his door and stuff. I bet if you do that when you work for him he FREAKS OUT! and interrupts your face!!!

  8. I just don’t see the point. How about HUMAN interaction people? It seems a bit extreme (even more than the beloved cubicle) to IM someone who’s sitting right across you just to check if they’re busy. If your colleague keeps calling your name like in your example “Jason x100” then I’m sorry to say but something’s clearly wrong with him/her man.

  9. I have been on borh sides of this (design manager for fortune 500 company and worker bee at small design studio) and there needs to be a middle ground on this. It is incredibly isolating to never talk to the people who sit right next to you. You cannot have a creative collaborative work environment this way. It is equally frustrating to have your day filled with meetings about meetings. There needs to be a way to block out time for work, but still have time for bouncing ideas off one another.

  10. “Big Think?” So few ideas spread so thin. Why bother with this tedious video? All he has to say could be expressed in about 50 written words.

  11. i used to get annoyed by interruptions. i was so frustrated thinking that interruptions were getting in the way of my job. then i realized that these interruptions often ARE my job. people need me. i need people. we go to work to interact in person – otherwise we could all just work from home.

    at my job, we are all respectful about how we interrupt each other, but thinking that the interruption takes away from the “real work” is counter-productive. i understand the need for quiet, uninterrupted time, but let’s not wholesale throw out the good that comes from interruptions. perhaps we need a new word for interruption…hmm, how about interaction?

  12. I’m guessing most of the negative comments are coming from designers, not software developers. While design is collaborative by nature—including designing software at a high level—low-level development of the software is solitary and complex, and every little interruption, everything that requires a context shift takes you out of “the zone”, removing your concentration from the complex task at hand. It can take half an hour to get back to that level of productivity. Yes, in that context, interruptions absolutely are the enemy of creativity.

  13. i think people in the work world can learn to be more respectful of people’s time, and controlling the extent of their interruptions. however, life is about interruptions and obstacles; and how to fight through them to still get things done.

  14. No doubt in my mind that Jason Fried has some wonderful, innovative ideas. However, he also has some really stupid ones and this is an example.

    You can be efficient at work if you have proper time management and are properly empowered to work as efficiently and effectively as you want or need to. If you can’t do this, find another job where you can.

    Working in open plan offices can be disruptive but it can also aid creativity, just from chatting or overhearing another conversation. Personally I’ve not found open place places to be incredibly noisy – often the opposite. Finally, on the subject of interruptions – a lot of those happen because things have changed and the modern business in one where you expect, anticipate and deal with change – not shut yourself away hoping things don’t change and you can continue on with your own plan when it’s no longer relevant.

    /rant ;)

  15. During the beginning of the video, I was suspicious that he had something to sell. That suspicion was confirmed at the end.

  16. Vincent, you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Managing designers is all about LOTS of communication. Managing developers is all about finding the balance of chat to make sure they’re doing what they should be (and that they’re still breathing) and leaving them alone to stay in the zone long enough to do what they should be doing.

    Some interruptions are vital. Others – most of the time – are not. Sending an IM to someone across the desk from you to ask if they’re available is a bit extreme, but often it’s just what’s needed.

  17. For all the negative commentators, keep in mind Jason Fried is a very successful business man who, from what it appears, runs a tight ship at 37 Signals and makes successful, ground-breaking and profitable products. There must be some truth in what he says. I could see if it was a bum of the street who had these notions…

  18. The company I work for is huge. Everyone works in cubicles. Our cubicles have 5′ walls. There are 5 cubes to an aisle and 15 aisles in our wing with no walls or sound baffling in between. When I get into Work, usually the first thing I hear is a conference call two aisles away in another team. That’s not collaboration. That’s noise.

  19. (10 cubicles to an aisle; 5 on each side)

  20. Very refreshing Jason. Thank you for addressing this issue. Encouraging interruptions in the work place is an old and tired way of doing business that doesn’t provide success for today’s employees. Technology and communication has changed and it is in every organization’s best interest to revise and upgrade the way they allow their employees to communicate.

  21. In the early 90’s I was an editorial intern at “Seattle” magazine, and when the editors had something due and couldn’t be disturbed, they hung a sheet of scratch paper that said “On deadline.”

    Worked like a dream.

    I could see an office using construction hard hats or cowboy hats or anything from Archie McPhee to the same effect. These people wouldn’t get stopped in the hallway either. Or maybe install those red mailbox flags on cubicles—up means step back, down means “open for business”? Anything to indicate a temporary no-fly zone would work, right??

    Nothing against 37Signals, but something that didn’t involve a new fracking piece of technology to learn would be grand.

  22. YES!!!! I work with a software development team and I have tried to encourage them to limit interruptions because I think they tend to negatively impact our productivity. I’m all about asynchronous communication unless the question or issue is a show-stopper; then interrupting someone is fine. To me, asynchronous communication allows us to address things when it’s best for us to do so and I think that helps our productivity. The comment about interruptions meaning that someone else has a problem, issue, whatever that is more important than what you’re working on is spot on.

    With all that said, I think that the number and kind of interruptions has to do with the kind of person someone is. If you’ve got the right people on your team, you will have fewer of the wrong kind of interruptions.

  23. Wearing a large pair of headphones (regardless of whether you’re actually listening to music) seems to discourage most interruptions

  24. A Manager that leaves employees to do their job isn’t doing his/hers….

    I Think he’s oversimplifying problems in the workplace being attributed to interruptions….Interruptions are necessary, especially when you need to take that call, you need to hear an update from a colleague, and you need to touch base with your team at a meeting–that’s work. When people go home at the end of the day with work left over, thats because theres just that much more to do….

    The problems he’s talking about in the workplace can’t all fall under the umbrella of interruptions…at the end of the day theres productive interruptions and unproductive distractions.

    Finally…I’d hate to live in a world devoid of human interaction….especially at work. The best work is done by the best teams. If you don’t interact as a team, you don’t provide a constructive work environment…When you make an effort to bond at a workplace, you enjoy it that much more, and dedicate yourself that much more.

    ….An Avid Swiss Miss RSS reader!…..

  25. I bet @Sandra ‘s employees beg to differ with her opinion

  26. I was watching this video. Then got interrupted. By my child who wanted me to see the face she had drawn. Interruptions can be a pain initially, but out of them come some of our best professional – and personal – innovations and joys.