Saturday, April 10, 2010

Why you can't work at work?

Offices are optimized for interruptions and interruptions are the enemy of work, creativity, and productivity. That's what Jason Fried, the co-founder of 37signals (makers of small business online collaboration tools), says and reported in boingboing.net yesterday. Anyway, it’s not a predicament that is unique to him – many of us experience it too. Well, I do. And as a result, people who work in offices have to do their real work at home, during the nights and weekends.

I wholeheartedly agree. Especially in my line of work, I have students knocking on the staff room door ever so frequently that I can do very little work except to address the needs of these students. Of course I can adopt the oft-used practice of asking students to make appointments to see me – but with my teaching hours stretched to the limit, how is that even possible? And with classes that flow from one to the next with very few breaks in between – I may not even check my emails daily. In a college environment, pastoral care is important – more so in Asian communities – so, we cannot appear to be standoffish or distant. We should be available for our students. Isn’t that why colleges prefer to employ full-time lecturers rather than part-time lecturers – the latter will just do a disappearing act after their classes?

Yes, working at home may become absolutely necessary. The best thing about working at home is that I can put my phone on silent mode and focus fully on ‘work’ for a couple of hours without interruption. At HICT, I found I have never been able to work for more than 20 minutes without someone breaking my concentration. When I do need to really scrutinize and examine and focus attention on some work – disruptions will derail my train of thought and clearly set me off-course.

This afternoon, I was at Damansara Uptown to observe the Division P International Speech and Table Topics Contest. It gave me a chance to size up the International Speech contest winner – in this case, the champion is Cyril Jonas with his speech titled ‘The Ice Cream Man”.

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