American actor Robert De Niro once said, “If it's the right chair, it doesn't take too long to get comfortable in it.” And comfort equals productivity, which we know from speaking with professionals in the health, human resources and scientific community. We like to be comfortable, whether it’s at home while we’re watching TV or reading the newspaper, riding long distances in our car, or working on the computer at our desk.
If comfort equates to productivity, then certainly, productivity leads to success. Now, we’re not saying that if you’re comfortable at work you’re guaranteed success. Certainly, there are many factors that determine success, including motivation.
With that in mind, we wanted to find out what motivates people, what makes them want to get up in the morning and be productive. So we went out and spoke to a few folks who have found success in very different fields. They have little in common, other than that when they are working, they find comfort in a Kinnarps chair.
Technology Keys Clients Efficiency
Employee productivity is a major part of what drives Lewis Briggs. At a previous employer, Briggs was charged with reducing costs via staff reductions. “Through automation, we took a department of 150 and reduced it to 22 without adding additional workload. A lot of the work was mundane, labor-intensive work, but not very complicated,” Briggs said, adding that the unfortunate reality in tough economic times is that reducing staff is a prime way to reduce operating costs.
Today, Briggs is a partner and business development director of Probase, which develops software and other technology-based solutions to improve their clients’ bottom lines. “We’re driven by our clients. They tell us what they need,” Briggs said. “We’re doing a lot with CRM (customer relationship management) and SMS (short message services). Cloud technology is becoming increasingly important, because more people are working from home instead of an office. “
That includes Briggs, who may spend days away meeting with clients, or, once back in his home office, “spending far too many hours” sitting. “There’s no typical day for Briggs. “Each day is different,” he said.
Think Ergonomics for Office Design
If Jonny Muirhead knew Briggs, he would probably caution Briggs that if he’s going to spend prolonged periods at a desk, he should make sure his workspace is properly designed, with an architect’s eye toward ergonomics.
“Ergonomics is incredibly important,” said Muirhead, an architect. “It’s all about how people interface with others, as they move around. Ergonomics is becoming acceptable; it’s no longer just a sexy thing to talk about.”
If ergonomics is no longer sexy, then the lack of job security and income never was, as Muirhead is finding out. He recently left the relative security of a full-time position to start his own company. “I was at my last firm for three years, and I felt the time was right to go and do something different.” That decision, during challenging economic times, has had its impact on Muirhead, who has seen business slow. “The construction industry gets hit hard,” he said, noting that he has about 80 percent of his work coming from residential customers, with the remainder from hotel and office work.
“Within office environments, space needs to be designed for functionality and comfort,” Muirhead said. “If you’re uncomfortable, you want to get up more, move around, and take more breaks. That’s not being productive. The good news is that there is a lot of ergonomic design being driven by national standards that we have to comply with.”
Finding the Humor Pays Off
Office-place comfort and productivity is clearly no laughing matter. Even for Neil Webster, who tries to find the humor in most things. But not when it comes to sitting for long stretches at his desk.
A comedy writer and producer, Webster worked on Channel 4’s The 11 O’Clock Show—a late-night British television comedy series which ran from 1998 - 2000. The year that show ended, he and co-writers from that show formed Zeppotron, a television and online comedy production company, now a division of Endemol,
Writing for BBC comedy shows and for stand-up comedians sounds like a lot of fun. Unless you’re sitting in front of a computer for 10 hours or more. Then, it could be a real pain in the …, well you know.
“It’s not a 9-to-5 job,” Webster explains. “It’s a very commission-based business. You’re out a lot pitching ideas. I’ve gone through periods where I’m working seven days a week because we had two shows on the air. Then you go through a time of a couple of months when you’re writing.”
When Webster is writing, he’ll sit at his desk at home working with his writing partner via Skype and other virtual technology. “We’ll both turn on our computers at around 8:30 in the morning and work until around 9 at night,” Webster said.
“At home, I get the equivalent of a day’s work done in three or four hours,” he said. “I’m definitely more productive working at home. If I’m going to a meeting, I’m up at 6, putting on a suit and tie. At home, I’ll go on the computer, working virtually with my partner, writing in my pajamas.”
Writing funny one-liners and comedy skits doesn’t just happen, Webster said. Rather, he and his writing partner utilize a process that some might find a bit surprising.
“We’ll pick up the same magazine, turn to a certain page and look at the corner of the page, maybe a certain line and pick three words. Or maybe it’s a picture,” Webster said. “Then we both spend 10 minutes each kicking this around in our brains, writing funny things. You just don’t write good jokes. You have to just start writing.”
So the next time you hear a good joke, or use computer technology, or come across an effectively-designed office, think about where that all started. Someone certainly developed the concept, probably sitting on a comfortable chair.