Remote work can interrupt the flow of work. Invest time and effort in understanding the barriers and blockages to productivity in distributed work.

In Kaizen and Lean productivity, there is a concept called Gemba, the place the work is done. These productivity disciplines exhort people seeking better performance to understand exactly how and where work is done. We may not fully understand the work with out experience of its locations, ebbs and flows.

Disrupted Flow

While remote work has many advantages, one disadvantage is an inability to observe the work in action and to see the frustrations. One of those frustrations is an interruption to the flow of work.

Working from home in a pandemic means interruptions are part of the course of our work. Deliveries arrive on the own timing. Parents need to look after children’s learning, meals and more. Tech support is self-service.

We also find that work can’t flow as easily because casual workplace conversations need to be scheduled as meetings. We have lost a flow of timely communication which chat can only partially replace. My experience has been that when a project is in flight, this flow of conversation finds a way, but if there are interruptions, distractions or delays, restarting the flow of communication & work takes huge effort. We have little shared time and context to found the flow of work.

Manage Flow

Managing the flow of work through interruptions and lack of communication takes effort. This will not ‘just happen’.

Teams need to think carefully about scheduling of meetings and events to allow time for uninterrupted work. Handoffs need to be worked on to ensure that they are effective and foster productive flow. Teams need to consider activities that are causing wait and delay for others to expedite effectiveness for everyone. We all need to be realistic about the life experiences that wrap around and through our work.

Teams need to create as much communication as they can to replace the informal discussions in the workplace. That discussion needs to be more than just chat and involve rich conversations and collaborations to solve the problems of work and share deep context.

The flow of our work influences our productivity. That flow also shapes our experience of frustrations and fatigue. delivering the workplace of the future requires us all to manage flow regardless of physical location.

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