As a nation, we are obsessed with productivity — particularly in the workplace. We set departmentwide metrics that measure things like percentage to goal, and we schedule monthly check-ins with managers to assess our performance over time.
And when our productivity falters, we turn to the internet, falling on articles like “Practicing Mindfulness for Productivity” in the hopes of learning some new trick that will put time back in our busy day.
But perhaps we’re ignoring the real problem here. Instead of focusing on the solution, we need to better understand the cause. So in the spirit of understanding what makes people unproductive, TSheets by QuickBooks sought the answers to these questions: What are the triggers of unproductive behavior at work, and whose job is it to reverse unproductivity?
We surveyed 500 employees from around the U.S., asking how factors like sleep, work environment, and more might affect their ability to get the job done.* Realizing we weren’t looking for productivity — rather, the inverse — we knew we needed a word to describe our endeavor. Thus, unproductivity. (Whether or not it’s really a word is beside the point, and googling the answer isn’t really a productive use of your time, now, is it?)
And if you’re still looking for a helpful top-10 article with tips for achieving the ultimate productive day, we have good news: In exploring the disease, we’ve unlocked at least a few possible cures. If you’re looking for the antidote to unproductivity, you’ve come to the right place.
Are U.S. workers getting enough sleep?
Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Or so Benjamin Franklin thought. But are U.S. workers getting all the sleep they need to be productive — let alone healthy? According to survey respondents, the answer is no. Just 1 in 5 said they get enough sleep every night, while 80 percent reported some level of insomnia.
And if you’re thinking, “Does sleep really have that much to do with productivity?” the answer is yes. While 3 out of 5 workers said they can sometimes function at their best without a good night’s sleep, 25 percent of those who said they never sleep well said they also never function at their best. Unlike their better-rested counterparts, these workers were also most likely to be “very distracted” by interrupting co-workers, background noise, and meetings.
Still, despite rolling out of bed tired, the majority of workers stated mid-morning was their most productive time, regardless of how many hours they’d slept.
According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), there’s been a decline in average sleep duration and quality over the last 50 years, leading to adverse health consequences. Interested in better understanding why sleep quality and duration was suffering, PNAS surveyed 1,508 American adults. Results showed 90 percent of these used some type of electronic device at least a few nights a week within one hour of bedtime, disrupting natural sleep patterns.
The PNAS then took their study even further, asking test subjects to interact with different electronic and non-electronic items prior to sleeping. This compared, for instance, the effects of using an e-reader versus a physical book prior to going to bed. On average, people who used an e-reader took 10 minutes longer to fall asleep, experienced significantly less REM sleep, and displayed lower levels of melatonin — the hormone that determines the body’s circadian rhythm and makes it easier to fall asleep.