Singapore’s working hours, compared to other developed nations, is among the highest in the world. Due to its long working hours, there is an inverse relationship between work and life harmony. With limitations imposed on the expansion of Singapore’s workforce, economic growth must increasingly become reliant upon gains in productivity.
Longer working hours hampers the development of family bonds and personal time, and has been associated with a variety of adverse physical and psychological outcomes including burnout. Among the many factors that contribute to long working hours, experts believed that there are three major factors, including unproductive work practices, workplace distractions and lack of rest given to employees to recover.
Unproductive work practices are actions that consume more work hours than necessary to produce the intended outcomes. Examples include bureaucratic red tape, unproductive meetings and non-value-added work. The prevailing top-down management culture and organisational attitudes allow unproductive work practices to persist. Workplace distractions and interruptions can both contribute to as well as become a consequence of unproductive work practices. Much has been written about the attainment of flow, a highly-engaged state of mind where a worker is most productive. Workplace distractions disrupt the entry and maintenance of flow.
In The Power of Full Engagement, Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr believe that we should shift from managing time to managing energy in the new knowledge economy. A productive worker is one who can think swiftly and clearly because they are afforded ample rest and recovery time.
In order for one to be at the performance zone, one needs to consciously, from time to time, drop into the renewal zone. A virtuous cycle can exist where improved productivity from fewer workplace interruptions leads to surplus time that can then be applied to recovery, further boosting productivity.
The core aim of protected work-time is to nudge and equip employees with the means to initiate a dialogue with colleagues and immediate supervisors, so that they might set aside time to work, free of interruptions. Workplace interruptions from colleagues and their superiors delay and/or prevent a worker from completing a task due to diversion of attention from the task at hand. This requires workers to invest additional time to return to their original task. Technology can enhance productivity, but can also unrelentingly compete for a worker’s attention, even for the most engaged and diligent worker. Having an uninterrupted period of time at work, free from work-related interruptions, can boost productivity and reclaim wasted time that would otherwise have been used to recover from an interruption.