How to find the best time for deep work for your team? 4 easy tips to boost your productivity in a data-informed way
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How to find the best time for deep work for your team? 4 easy tips to boost your productivity in a data-informed way

The ability to focus on cognitively demanding tasks is the most important team productivity factor. In fact, as noticed by Cal Newport, “deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep – spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there's a better way”.

In addition, what we’ve seen during the pandemic is that a (wrongly executed) remote work model can have a detrimental effect on our teams’ productivity levels. So, what can we do to avoid constant interruptions and collaboration overload? In this piece, we share our four tips on how you can leverage data to support your team’s productivity.

4 tips to boost your productivity in a data-informed way

How to embrace a data-informed approach and boost productivity – four key tactics

#1 Prioritize deep work 

Before we proceed, let’s make sure that we’re clear on the ‘deep work’ definition. Simply put, it’s the time employees dedicate to important tasks without any interruptions.

Based on our data at Network Perspective, so-called ‘high performing teams’ are characterized by having at least 10 hours or deep work time each week, per employee. And yet, while 10 hours certainly doesn’t seem unattainable, many organizations struggle to reach this threshold. One potential culprit? In recent years, the time we spend on meetings has doubled (from 7 to 14 hours), making it more challenging to carve away time for complex tasks.


What can you do to restore balance? 

Naturally, you should start by revisiting your approach towards team collaboration, i.e., when a meeting or chat is genuinely crucial, and generate more time for deep work. However, it’s just part of success – it’s also worth knowing how to use your freed up time effectively. This leads us to the next point below.

#2 Build a deep work routine 

To create healthy deep work routines for your team, follow our recommendations below:

  • Encourage team members to reorganize their calendars. If they can put meetings into clusters, perhaps, they’ll have more time for quality deep work in one long streak? And, speaking of streaks...
  • Assess how long deep work streaks last. Ideally, they should be at least one hour long each. If they are shorter, consider the reasons. Do employees keep writing to one another on Slack? Or maybe they’re drawn away by pop-up, email notifications?
  • Assess the quality (i.e., outcome of deep work streaks), not quantity. One lengthy deep work streak can drive better results than two shorter ones, cut into half by an interruption. Especially, as it takes 25 minutes to restore focus every time your attention is drawn away.

  • Promote using the right tools. For instance, the Pomodoro technique will help your employees put away everything but the task they’re currently tackling for at least 25 minutes.
  • Encourage your employees to set themselves as ‘busy’ on communication tools. Your organization should make it clear to team members that they don’t have to be available all the time. Quite the contrary – their decision to “disappear” will be lauded by leaders if it’s used for quality work.
  • Set automatic declines in the calendar. If the employee has a deep work event booked in the calendar, all attempts to schedule a meeting during that time should have an auto reject (if your team member needs to do it themselves, they might feel guilty and sacrifice their much needed deep work).
  • Consider the best time for deep work. The Doist suggests that humans are most productive before lunch, so encourage team members to block time for deep work in their calendars earlier in the day. That being said, if you have a distributed team, search for the golden mean. Consider the various time zones and work hours’ overlap.

Suffice to say, small changes in your team’s habits will go a long way!

#3 Learn how to spot and eliminate deep work distractors

Opening a message on Slack as you’re reading through an important document. Receiving a “let’s jump on a quick call in 15 minutes” email… Or being approached directly at the office with a “do you have a moment” request. For many of us, these examples of situations surely hit close to home.

FOMO and feeling obliged to be available are two major deep work distractors most of us fall victim to. 

To tackle them effectively, it’s worth meeting up with your team members to agree on communication guidelines. Particularly, you should reach a decision as to when your team focuses on deep work and when they can communicate asynchronously.

Naturally, you should also mute notifications and set a “deep work” or “away/slow to respond” status on your communicator app. This will help you manage others’ expectations or keep them from contacting you altogether, unless truly needed. 

#4 Leverage data to find best time for deep work & make your new team habits stick

Your plan to optimize productivity might backfire if your new deep work guidelines collide with your team’s other obligations. For instance, let’s assume you’ve decided to set your Product Managers’ deep work time between 10 AM and 12 PM. However, you haven’t acknowledged that one of your Senior Product Managers has a daily meeting at 10:30 AM. 

To help you make sense of multiple calendars, we’ve created an algorithm at Network Perspective that allows you to visualize the optimal time for deep work. Our platform will analyze your team’s calendars every thirty minutes to help you make the best decision. 

Below is an example of a real-time team heatmap, with grey boxes indicating the time slots less occupied by meetings for the whole team. Our platform analyzes data for the last 12 weeks, so you adjust your deep work strategy to fit your team’s current workload and time capacity.

Final remarks

While most businesses realize that deep work is closely related to team productivity, many organizations still struggle to see the desired results. To support your team members and give them space for cognitively challenging tasks, it’s not enough to ‘simply’ find time in their calendars. It’s also important to teach them how to use deep work streaks effectively.

For this purpose, we encourage you to create cross-team deep work routines. Particularly, make sure your employees realize that you don’t expect them to be available around the clock. Secondly, use a platform like Network Perspective to inform your deep work strategy and adjust it to your team’s changing dynamics.

If you’re interested in seeing what else you can learn with our workplace analytics solution, reach out. We’ll happily schedule a demo and discuss your organization’s needs!

August 17, 2021

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