It’s time to ditch old metaphors and reinvent productivity, says Evernote GM Cristina Riesen

On rare occasion we experience a momentous coupling of forces that usher a change so radical the world is turned on its head. Under the first agricultural revolution, humans transitioned from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to sedentary societies. The industrial revolution then saw mechanisation transform the agrarian labour landscape. We are now in the midst of another revolution – a digital one.  

Just as our predecessors had to adapt to settling down on a plot of land and using machinery, we must adapt to the new empowerment brought about by our advancements. 

Sitting at your desk from 09:00 to 17:00 from Monday to Friday is a popular expectation, and one that rings across all echelons of the corporate ladder. We’ve bought into a de facto belief that if you’re not present in the office, then you must be “shirking” from home. 

This might have been the case 100 or even 30 years ago, before we could easily connect with one another. But with the advent of instant messaging, social media, and cloud services, our outdated yet deeply ingrained attitude towards how to work is holding us back.

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Being confined to a room for eight hours a day isn’t the way to get things done anymore. As technology replaces and automates the many tasks that used to keep us occupied, “work” becomes more about innovation and less about turning the wheels. Therefore, the new workspace needs to create an environment that can foster both productivity and creativity. 

So far, we’ve done a very good job at fostering neither. Instead, we place too much time and effort on moulding ourselves to a pre-digital performance template: being present, being seen and being busy. We can work anytime from practically anywhere, so why is the social stigma still attached to flexible working? 

We need to move away from the assumption that working remotely means working less, and that working long means you’re doing more. Clocking in 14 hours doesn’t automatically make you more productive than someone who was in the office for four. Good ideas are borne out of a good place and can happen at any time. It’s not about keeping a structured schedule, but more about finding the best time and place for you as an individual to work. 

When employees are in tune with their own working cadence, the company is more productive as a whole. We need to take a cue from the disruptive, unpredictable, flexible nature of good ideas.

In a way, we’re about to come full circle. The digital revolution is doing away with the idea of the office, and the nomadic lifestyle of the past is now also the future of work.

Cristina Riesen is general manager EMEA for Evernote.

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