Focus time metric – How deep work streak length influences productivity
general business | specialist | expert

Focus time metric – How deep work streak length influences productivity

It’s hard to imagine our lives without Internet access and mobile phones. We’ve grown accustomed to being constantly interrupted both at home and at work. Lack of time for deep work, however, has a negative impact on productivity – an issue which has brought more concern now that most businesses have moved to remote work models. 

In the following article, we’re going to take a look at how the length of deep work streaks impacts employee productivity and how you can measure them for your business.

The impact of deep work streak length & count on productivity

I have recently spoken to 20 managers, who lead teams of between 8-80 members. 18 of them (90%) have admitted that their number one challenge at the moment is to ensure that software developers have enough time for deep work. They have also pointed out the need to reduce the number of meetings.

Here’s where calculating deep work streak length comes in handy. 

To calculate it, check how many time slots of uninterrupted work you have in your calendar and how long they last. 

Why is this metric important for your business?

For starters, deep work is the single most important productivity factor. If your team doesn’t have the time for their own, individual tasks, they simply won’t be able to get things done. The more breaks you see in your employees’ calendars – especially those that are shorter than 60 minutes – the fewer tasks they can get done, and the lower their attention span.

That being said, it’s wrong to assume that your team members might be catching up on things during meetings – these should be designed in a way that your employees are fully present.

Why can this metric be tricky and how to avoid mistakes in measuring and interpreting it?  

Deep work streaks aren’t made equal, to better illustrate it, we’re going to take a look at an example. Let’s imagine that your employees get 4 hours of deep work a day, which might seem a lot. What you have to pay attention to, however, is how long the deep work streaks last. Are there 4 streaks lasting 60 minutes each or is there just one which lasts 4 hours? The second scenario is less probable. It’s worth noting that each interruption will negatively impact productivity, as on average it takes 25 minutes to return to full productivity mode. 

It’s crucial to ensure that you have longer deep work streaks with fewer interruptions. To achieve that you’ll have to better organize your schedule, for instance, hold all your meetings during the first part of the day. Here are a few additional tips that you can consider:

  • Set your deep work slots as busy with automatic invite rejections.
  • Discuss with your team an agreement on common getting things done/deep work hours.
  • Make sure you set clear “away/slow to respond/deep work” status on your business live chat app. 
  • Turn off your notifications (email, chat app, calendar) during deep work hours. 

How can modifying collaboration design based on the above data impact your business?

Let’s take Uber as an example. Their People Analytics team took on measuring deep work streaks & length for their team throughout the pandemic. Initially, they’ve noticed a -1.3x drop in focus time after they’ve moved to remote work. They have also noticed a disturbing number of short breaks in team calendars. To alleviate this issue, they have decided to group meetings to ensure that their employees have very few short, i.e., 15-minute long time slots. Reorganizing their calendars to promote deep work length & count has improved their employees’ perceived sustainability 2x.

Final remarks

If you want to maintain high productivity and employee satisfaction levels, it’s critical to provide your team with enough deep work time. Measure not just the total hours, but also the streak length & count of deep work time each week. It’s crucial to know that ‘focus time’ can only be measured as any time of above 60 minutes of uninterrupted work. Therefore, if you’re seeing multiple short time slots in team calendars, high chances are they’re suffering from overload and low efficiency.

Two qualitative workplace analytics focus time metrics

If you’d like to see how you can assess focus time for each team, reach out – we’ll happily discuss how the Network Perspective platform can help you in increasing employee productivity and well-being.

August 31, 2021

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