Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work, by Jason Fried

Introduction

In this controversial lecture, Jason Fried argues that, rather than social media, managers and meetings are the biggest distractions in the workplace. He gives three suggestions on how to improve productivity.

Vocabulary

Before watching the video, make sure you are familiar with the meaning of these words.

burst n. /to burst v. – a sudden release of energy
decoy n. – a deliberate distraction
to ban v. – to forbid someone from doing something
toxic adj. – dangerous in some way; ie poisonous
spontaneous adj. – sudden and unexpected
enlightened adj. – intelligent or spiritually aware
collaboration n. /to collaborate v. – to work with others
provocative adj. – doing something in the knowledge that it will upset or anger other people
to lease v. – to rent or borrow
to shred v. – to destroy by tearing into small, thin strips
stretch of time n. – a period of time
to bump v. – to knock or push
instant messaging/IM n. – a form of online communication

Listening

Comprehension Questions

Watch the video and answer the questions below. You may check your answers at the bottom of the page.

  1. Where do people go when they really need to get something done?
  2. What do creative people need in order to work effectively?
  3. How is sleep similar to work?
  4. What are the real interruptions at work?
  5. What are the problems with meetings?
  6. What is “No-Talk Thursday” and how can it help?
  7. What are Jason’s three suggestions for minimizing distractions?

 

 

Gap-Fill

Skip to 06:42 in the video and fill in the blanks. Stop at 07:46.

So what are the _____1_____ that happen at the office but not at other places? Because in other places, you can have interruptions like the TV, or you could go for a walk, or there’s a _____2_____, or you’ve got your own couch, or whatever you want to do. If you talk to _____3______, they’ll tell you that they don’t want their employees to work at home because of these ___4____. They’ll sometimes also say, “If I can’t see the person, how do I know they’re working?” which is ridiculous, but that’s _____5______ that managers give. And I’m one of these managers. I understand. I know how this goes. We all have to improve on ______6_______. But oftentimes they’ll cite distractions: “I can’t let someone work at home. They’ll watch TV, or do this other thing.” It turns out those aren’t the things that are _____7_____. Because those are _______8________. You decide when you want to be distracted by the TV, when you want to turn something on, or when you want to go downstairs or go for a walk. At the office, most of the _______9________ that really cause people not to get work done are ______10______. So let’s go through a couple of those.

 

True or False

Skip to 09:52 and listen until 11:25. Mark the following statements as true, false, or not given.

  1. Employees typically call meetings.
  2. Meetings function best with 10 employees present
  3. Meetings are places to talk about things that will happen later.
  4. Meetings are cost-effective.
  5. Meetings are scheduled according to software programs.
  6. Meetings usually last longer than they should.

 Speaking

Part One

  1. Where do you do most of your studying?
  2. What do you find is the best place to study?
  3. In what kind of workplace would you like to work in future?
  4. What would make the perfect office?
  5. Do you think people are more or less productive when they work from home?
  6. Do you find the internet a distraction from your work/studies?

Part Two

Describe the place where you work or study.

You should say:

  • What you do there
  • What it looks like
  • How long you have worked/studied there

And to what extent it is a productive environment.

 

Sample answer:

I’m not currently employed because I am a student, so my place of work is the library. The library at my university is three floors high, but it is a very large building in terms of physical space. It is quiet, of course, and very well-stocked with useful books and computers. When I go there I either take advantage of the quiet environment to study my notes, or I use their facilities to research my studies. The design inside is very modern and simple, with few distractions. I have been studying there for two years – ever since I enrolled at this university. I find it to be a very productive environment and I feel very comfortable studying there for the remainder of my academic career.

 

Part Three

  1. How can technology be utilized to facilitate better communication in the workplace?
  2. Should companies ban social media to eliminate workplace distractions?
  3. What design features of a building might increase workplace productivity?
  4. What are some important features for a productive workplace?
  5. What are some of the common problems in a workplace environment?

 

 

Writing

Task Two

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

Write about the following topic:

Some people argue that it is more important to have an enjoyable job than to earn a lot of money. Others disagree and think that a good salary leads to a better life.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

 

It is impossible to see the future, but in choose one’s career path one has to make an educated guess at what will lead to the greater level of satisfaction. On the one hand there is job satisfaction, and on the other there is a high salary, leading to perhaps greater satisfaction outside the workplace.

The first argument is that it is better to have a high level of satisfaction at work. Jobs which give people satisfaction include teaching and nursing, where the worker is able to speak with a variety of people every day and give them assistance in their life. They can then gain happiness from helping others, and feel better about themselves. However, these people are often inadequately paid, which may cause them undue stress outside of work.

The second argument is that it is preferable to be highly paid, even if the work is not so enjoyable. These people include lawyers, bankers, and businesspeople. Their lives are stressful but they seldom have to worry about paying bills. They work long hours and often dislike their jobs, but at the weekend and on holiday they have more freedom because they have lots of money to spend.

Overall, I believe that it is better to have job satisfaction than a big salary, because money cannot buy happiness, nor can it buy health. If you work too much you will become stressed and have health problems, and no amount of money can allow you to find happiness in such a situation.

Word count: 252

Answers

Comprehension

  1. Porch, kitchen, deck, basement, coffee shops, library, commute, etc
  2. Long stretches of uninterrupted time
  3. Can’t sleep whilst being interrupted constantly
  4. M&Ms – managers and meetings
  5. They disrupt lots of people, are repetitive, and expensive
  6. One Thursday per month spent partly in silence
  7. Half-day silent Thursday, moving from active to passive communication (ie IM, email), and cancel the next meeting

Gap-fill

  1. interruptions
  2. fridge downstairs
  3. certain managers
  4. distractions
  5. one of the excuses
  6. this sort of thing
  7. distracting
  8. voluntary distractions
  9. interruptions and distractions
  10. involuntary

True or False

  1. F – managers usually call meetings
  2. NG
  3. T
  4. F – they are very expensive
  5. T
  6. T

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Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel.

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