By David Hassell, an EO At Large-US member, and CEO of 15Five
One of my primary focuses as a CEO is to guide and facilitate team productivity. I want to drive innovation & growth for the company, but I also recognize the importance of employee investment. When employees show up disengaged, they don’t bring their best selves to work and in turn, do not grow nor feel fulfilled as an outcome of the work they do. Investing in their growth may not seem like a top priority with everything else going on, however, consider the difference between an entire workforce working at 58% of their potential vs 99%.
If productivity is defined as work divided by time, nothing upsets the ratio like communication dysfunction. Employees have to communicate and collaborate, but they also have to intentionally isolate themselves to find focus, which has been increasingly hard to find in recent years. Focusing on a task is impossible with the constant bombardment from email, texts, and a host of different messaging apps. Finding the balance between working together and working separately is built on the backbone of optimized communication practices and “in the zone” or flow tactics.
Time is one of our most important assets and we must leverage it effectively to be successful. I believe that for employees to do their best work, they need blocks of time without any interruptions. I recently met the executive team at Ontraport who have implemented an internal program to provide these productivity blocks. They designate several hours each day that they call “quiet time” when employees are not allowed to interrupt others except for an emergency. I knew my own team could immensely benefit from set periods of virtual “Do Not Disturb” time.
Every organization has its own unique DNA, so this solution was not that simple for us. First, some roles like customer support require team members to be available constantly. Second, as a globally distributed workforce, It is difficult to pick one set period for quiet time with people spread across different time zones.
With lots of input from the team on how they could best be served by the concept, we devised the following. Different teams take the first hour of the day to collaborate on anything pressing from the day before, or meet to understand the day’s team-based initiatives. Then every employee performs their highest leverage activities by using the most powerful and potent energy of the day (generally late morning) to focus on their highly creative or challenging tasks.
Everyone has a bat-signal, a method of contact that is for emergencies only. That way, if something major breaks, I won’t be scrambling to reach a developer who is coding to his favorite DJ set playing through his earphones.
After lunch, everyone commits to “community time,” a set block of time when they will be ON, instead of having a set time where radio silence is mandatory. The window is just a couple of hours and it allows people to spend the waning hours of the day responding to emails, and tending to the little things so that they can start fresh the next day.
Whether you set quiet time or community time, I suggest actively and intentionally blocking off periods of uninterrupted focus. A focused team is more productive, which ultimately translates to increased engagement for them and greater progress for the business.
David Hassell is a serial entrepreneur and presently Founder & CEO of 15Five, a SaaS company that enables organizations to streamline communication and feedback. Hailed by Fast Company as the “15 Most Important Minutes of Your Work Week” 15Five creates an internal communication process that allows the most important information to flow seamlessly throughout an organization, to surface issues before they become problems, to celebrate wins, discover great ideas and stay tuned in to the morale of the team. David formerly served as President of the San Francisco chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and was named “The Most Connected Man You Don’t Know in Silicon Valley” by Forbes.