Optimizing Workflow in the Office (Infographic)

We’ve all experienced the state of flow at one point or another. Time seems to stand still, and there’s only one thing in the entire world: your project. At other times you might have spent days trying to chug through what you’ve accomplished in one sitting. Your stomach growls and you realize it’s already lunch. But if you’re like most of the workforce, this state only occurs sporadically.

Luckily, we now have a solid body of research that details the do’s and don’ts of achieving flow. Check out some of the basics below…


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Optimizing Workflow and Productivity in the Office

We’ve all been there. It’s a busy day at work: emails flying, bosses checking in, meetings to attend, phones ringing off the hook; on top of work-related instant messages, personal instant messages, personal text messages, tweets, Facebook updates, etc., etc.


The average worker experiences an interruption every 3 minutes.

It typically takes 23 minutes to return the original task.

That means you’re progressively falling more and more behind. Every day.

Time working/Time spent recovering from working/Total time:
3 mins/23 mins/26 mins
6 mins/46 mins/52 mins
9 mins/1 hour 9 mins/1 hour 18 mins
12 mins/1 hour 32 mins/1 hour 44 mins
15 mins/1 hour 55 mins/2 hours 10 mins

Sound familiar? At this rate you’ll have spent less than 30 minutes on the project you’re trying to focus on by lunch.

In fact, recent research suggests the average worker only works 3 days a week – or about 1.5 hours a day.


74% of businesses report taking at least one measure to minimize office distractions and optimize workflow. Let’s examine some effective strategies.


Cancel All Your Meetings:

“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” — Dr. John Kenneth Gilbraith

Many tend to agree.

Percent who believe meetings are a time-waste:
40% Employees
30% Managers
25-50% Executives

70% of employees say meetings don’t help them complete work.

67% of employees say they spend up to 4 hours per week preparing for status update meetings.

45% of senior executives say their employees would be more productive without meetings.

But only 16% of companies report reducing workplace meetings. We’ve become excellent at pretending to get stuff done, and increasingly awful at actually doing so.

Get Rid of the “Multi-Task” Ethic:

The science is out: there is no such thing as multi-tasking.

The more apt term is task-switching, and it’s shockingly ineffective – to the tune of a 40% decline in productivity.

Workers attempting to juggle set tasks with emails or phone calls literally become dumber, suffering a 10-point IQ drop.

That’s the equivalent of missing an entire night’s sleep, and twice the effect of smoking marijuana.

In fact, with the rate of errors you’ll make interrupting workflow, multi-tasking quickly becomes not just unproductive, but counterproductive.

Interruption Duration / Error Rate of Task:
3 seconds / double
4.5 seconds / triple

The good news is that, with a healthy dose of self-discipline and good habits, we can retrain ourselves to focus on the task at hand.

Some Easy Methods:
1) Turn off – or at least silence – your cell phone. Just do it.
2) Avoid chatty, back-and-forth internal emails. Use a work phone or visit in-person.
3) Make a simple, accomplishable to-do list. 3 items a day.
4) Prioritize on-the-go. If the task is non-emergency and not on your to-do list, make a note and return to it later.
5) Learn to say no – or at least not right now. If it can wait, make it wait.


Let Workers Determine their Workspace:

Never overlook the importance of the physical work environment.

Whether your office is open space, cubicled, or a hybrid, what ultimately matters most is worker empowerment.

Worker-Empowered Offices Promote Personalized:
Work spaces
Office decor
Common areas

Science Shows Worker-Empowered Offices Enhance:
Business Morale

Once you’ve been given the keys to the office, consider these additional tips.

Productivity Increasers:
Rounded furniture
Green, blue, and red colors
Natural light
Outdoor views
Healthy snacks
Personal photos or pictures
Ergonomic desk chair/standing desk


Finally: Take a Break!

Scheduled, disciplined breaks are different – and much more productive – than unscheduled interruptions and distractions.

A 30-second mini-break can increase productivity 13%.

A 15-second break from staring at your computer reduces fatigue by 50%.

And if you can get away with it, a 40-minute nap increases alertness by 34%.

Breaks Help Us To:
Reduce boredom
Retain information
Re-evaluate goals
Improve self-control
Generate new ideas


Your workflow is ultimately just that – yours. Find what suits you, and stick with it until you discover something even better.

For now, get back to work!



  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201204/why-meetings-kill-productivity
  • https://hbr.org/2015/06/conquering-digital-distraction
  • https://hbr.org/2010/05/how-and-why-to-stop-multitaski.html
  • http://coschedule.com/blog/multitasking-and-productivity/
  • https://hbr.org/2014/08/schedule-a-15-minute-break-before-you-burn-out/
  • http://www.cbsnews.com/news/study-3-second-distractions-double-workplace-errors/
  • http://www.businessinsider.com/design-tricks-for-a-highly-productive-workspace-2015-6
  • http://99u.com/articles/17437/the-perfect-workspace-according-to-science
  • https://adobe99u.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/2010+jep+space+experiments.pdf
  • http://www.lifehack.org/articles/work/the-importance-breaks-work.html
  • Web Statistics