Leadership & Productivity

Why 'slow and steady' wins the work day

7 min read

18 November 2019

Our modern work culture seems to dictate that we do everything in record time, but is that really the best way?

In 2004, Canadian journalist Carl Honoré first explored how the concept of ‘slow movement’ could apply to many things. In his book, ‘‘In Praise of Slowness‘, Honoré writes about the pressure – that has only multiplied exponentially in the last 15 years – that we feel to maximise nearly every moment of our lives.

We extend our waking hours so as not to waste time and schedule our lives with back to back engagements. This has only increased as social media has fostered the FOMO – fear of missing out – craze and as being the first in and last out of the office.

Working overtime

Working over the weekend and answering emails at all hours of the day has become a badge of honour.

Facebook’s “move fast and break things” slogan has become a mantra for us all. For many of us, this ‘always-on’ style of work takes a toll on our mental and physical health.

In addition, it often makes for careless and inaccurate work as we multitask and work long into the night. But this doesn’t just impact each of us personally.

It can have a negative impact on the business that we think is benefiting from all our hard work.

Speed over substance?

Speed often takes precedence over thoroughness, encourages us to sidestep security protocols and leads to a loss of focus.

Our short attention spans can cause important details to be missed. But how can we truly embrace a slower work pace when multitasking?

Perhaps we need to focus on the key tenants of the ‘slow work’ movement, and not on the ‘slow’ part in insolation.

The key to keeping it slow

The slow movement in general advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace.

  • It counters the argument that faster is always better
  • It encourages us to save hours and minutes instead of counting them
  • It emphasises quality over quantity
  • It focuses on using time in a more meaningful and productive way

Retaining focus

The ‘slow work’ movement encourages us to devote energy and focus on one task at a time and adjusting our routine to schedule controlled breaks.

It also hopes to encourage a different point of view around our self-esteem and its intrinsic connection to work.

Often work can frustrate us, placing immense amounts of stress on individuals and in extreme cases cause illness.

Changing the way that we work could drastically impact our quality of life, so it must be worth giving it a go-to connect, create and balance our lives.

The balance between focusing and connecting

When we are in a world that doesn’t connect anymore, we spend our time looking at our phones and walking around trying not to make eye contact with those we pass on the street.

This distraction from where we are and what is going on around us also finds itself in the workplace.

We try to do a million things when our focus should be on the meeting at hand, listening and engaging with those talking.

The remote working craze, for example, has helped many of us block out the distractions of the office and a work from home day is often cited as the most productive day of the week.

The benefits of remote working

It can also lower stress levels by eradicating the morning commute. However, as beneficial as remote working can be, it still has to work for the organisation.

The widespread availability of video conference technology tools ensures that the connection at the heart of the slow work movement is still possible, no matter how dispersed colleagues are.

Quality often drives quantity

Multitasking has quickly become one of the most valuable skills an employee can have. Job adverts and interviews all aim to explore just how many balls people can juggle.

It isn’t hard to connect the dots between tasks that are drawing our attention on the one hand and something going wrong or forgotten on the other.

Monotasking, on the other hand, encourages people to set boundaries between tasks and typically creates an environment where complex projects are delivered faster and with better results.

It also fosters creativity as we dedicate our thinking to a specific task as we can focus on a deeper level.

Bringing it all together

All of this guidance goes against what most of us have strived for our entire careers – it doesn’t value the employee that works faster, longer and is always contactable.

It puts emphasis on fully dedicating yourself to individual tasks and the workday in general for an allotted time, encouraging the ability to walk away and enjoy other parts of your life.

The utility of tech

There is plenty of technology that helps organisations to rebuild a culture of presentness by simplifying, focusing and connecting the work we do.

It also puts a bigger value on the well-being of employees over pushing them to their limits.

Try it someday. Take some time in the slow lane. Switch off your phone, ignore your email, stop running around chasing your tail. You may just be surprised at just how much you have accomplished at the end of a lazy productive day.