Stop Days: The Secret To Nonprofit Productivity | Beth's Blog

Stop Days: The Secret To Nonprofit Productivity

Happy Healthy Nonprofit, Social Media Policy

The NTEN Book Club, organized by Lauren McKown and Kai Williams, hosted a video chat this week.This month they have been reading The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout and discussing it in the NTEN online community. The video chat provided a nice opportunity to have conversation in real-time about the relationship between self-care and workplace productivity.

We talked about the issue of “collaborative overload” which is defined as the burnout that results from our over reliance on e-mails, meetings and other collaborative online technology tools that have, ironically, limited our ability to get stuff done.We discussed the issue in relation to remote working staff and how to address some of the common issues that hinder group and individual staff productivity.

Workplace Productivity and Well Being 

The chart above comes from a recent study on the link between well being and workplace productivity and the impact of office design. The blue zone is productivity and as you can see it peaks in the morning (8-10 am) and (4-6 pm). As you can see, it coincides with the the orange line which represents “heads down time,” or when a staff person is working solo on a particular task like writing a report, planning, or other task requiring a distraction free zone.

Other recent studies suggest that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and helps be more adaptive in the workplace. A 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, based on a survey of 43,000 workers, concluded that the disadvantages of noise and distraction associated with open office plans reduced productivity. We also no that workplace noise and interruptions can cause stress and even be bad for our health.

For many nonprofit professionals, interactions with colleagues in meetings or informally can be very productive, but various interruptions by colleagues can not only be an obstacle to productivity, but also cause stress. One method for individuals is to schedule “power hours” by putting your planning/quiet time in your calendar and focusing on a key task such as a weekly review. Another method is finding a  “Shultz Hour” where you carve an hour before or after work for silent reflection, or maybe a Shultz ten minutes by closing your office door.

This techniques can work, but if there are no workplace norms about respecting each other’s need for quiet time, these techniques can be derailed.

Last month, I was honored to deliver the keynote and several workshops at the 2017 Gateway Conference on Philanthropy  where my colleague Jana Byington-Smith told me what her office does. They schedule two “stop days” per month.Stop days are when no internal or external meetings take place, they do not even chat in the office. It is okay for them to close their doors – and finish up a project or do planning – any task that requires solo time.

How do you carve out quiet time to get solo tasks done? Does your nonprofit have a cultural norm that honors quiet, solo time? How does it work?

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