From Availability to Output

How to make the essential shift as a team from availability to output.

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If I told you that improving the quality of your work goes hand in hand with improving the quality of your life, you would surely jump at the opportunity to learn how.

We talk about it all the time: having more time for our families, ourselves, to exercise, to relax, the need to switch off, the need to be present, but somehow all of these very reasonable desires seem to constantly come into conflict with modern working life.

This is especially problematic during periods where we’re working from home, as we almost become fearful of switching our emails off or putting our phones away in case our colleagues might think we’ve just gone for a nap.

It’s tempting to believe that this is because we simply have too much work to do, but this isn’t the case. In fact, productivity in most Western countries, particularly the UK, has been on an overall downward trend for the past decade.  The reason most of us feel rushed off our feet and unable to carve out more time for ourselves is that modern workplaces have developed to favour availability over all else.  The rise of electronic communications means that we expect ourselves and others to instantly respond to any incoming message or request, and over time we grow to associate the speed of that response with being good at our jobs. This is particularly true in the information (or knowledge) sector, where output is somewhat less tangible.

So, why is this a problem?

Firstly, because it leads to presenteeism.  We feel that we need to constantly be seen to be working in order to be valued.  Constantly connected, constantly responsive.  This is especially problematic during periods where we’re working from home, as we almost become fearful of switching our emails off or putting our phones away in case our colleagues might think we’ve just gone for a nap.

Secondly, because this need to be constantly available goes hand in hand with getting distracted.  I’ve already written about the dangers of distraction, but in a nutshell, the more times we get distracted in a day, the dumber we get. Every time your attention is pulled from doing something to answering an email, your brain finds it harder to know what to focus on.

All of this means that we’re stopping ourselves from engaging in deep work, which is when our thinking is at its best, we find our flow and our output is optimal. In other words, it’s when we’re of most value to our company.

One of the things we focus on at Well & Truly, both in our remote,1hr30 training sessions and in one of our in-person training modules, is how companies can start to shift this mindset to improve output and give employees a lot more control over their time.

It requires the whole team to buy in, which is why investing in training sessions for your employees is so valuable, but in a nutshell it entails:

  1. Consistently communicating that output is valued more over availability and that employees are trusted
  2. Setting output goals as clearly and tangibly as possible
  3. Committing to using time boxing as a team
  4. Team members communicating with each other when they’ve set aside time for deep work, so they feel no guilt for not being reachable, and colleagues respecting that time.

This system is hard. It feels counterintuitive in many ways and goes against everything modern working culture conditions us for.  However, we’ve seen it improve the quality of a company’s work and the wellbeing of team members, so we have no doubt it’s worth the effort. 

To learn more about our unique approach to productivity and wellbeing, visit

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