Sleep and Productivity during a Pandemic

Need Sleep

I’ve been sleeping very late on week days because there’s just way too much work to complete in a day but it takes twice the effort to get it done because people aren’t sitting next to each other.

Few months ago it was still a hypothesis, but ever since I manage to lock part of the team in a room for a stretch of 2 hours just to “work” and watch productivity soar, I realise that the “managers” of year 2020 just need to be a bit more brutal to get the energy of teams together. It can be just 2 hours a day, with the other 22 hours free and easy, but I think it makes a difference.

Still, I’m sleeping late. And we’re no where near getting everyone back in office any time soon.

When do you rest?

All the time!

This was a new question that was thrown at me while catching up with old buddies. Apparently he’s a “new” old buddy 🙂 those who know me from school knows I’m still playing this on my Windows laptop (to my wife’s delight … NOT)!

Age of Empire (2k, etc.) – click image for source

It is a game that always end between 45 minutes and 1 hour 15 minutes (depending on whether I select Hard or Hardest – Moderate and below is meaningless after 20 years of mastery).

And thus it always rings the Internal Guilt Alarm at the right time!

By the way, it is either rest or work, there’s no in between. Yes, I need to control my temper better, but due to the lack of an official study at home, my kids do seek attention (like all kids do) when I’m at work or at play at the dining table, and it has not went down nicely often.

But it’s the mixing of these two that is the problem – managing a large team who needs external motivation to get things done, and managing my own energy (between family, work, play, and personal time). Thus, not enough sleep.

Source: (and 1827, 1826)

When do we rest?

What pushed me to write this down this week is this: 1 week just passed, and despite spending 1 hour with each person to motivate, energise, encourage, and so on, most who said they need to get something done by Friday did not, and thus the deliverable again slips by 1 week. This is the symptom not the root cause.

I asked myself – is it me? Did I set an impossible deadline? I don’t think so. If I did, there would be push backs, or at least a Friday message that admits defeat. What I found is that everyone is still working on things past deadline, each taking 2x to 10x the time. One took 5 days to make a 1 line change to the schedule. Another took 3 days to perform a google search that can be done in 3 minutes. Yet another came complaining that he didn’t have the hardware needed to test his work, a full 1 month after he knew about the test. The smallest, most mundane things, is killing the high sense of coherence we had as an organisation, not that long ago.

I turned the situation around – and asked those who appear to not be able to manage their time best to go clear their leave and take a deep breath. Some did, others didn’t see the point. Those who did spoke fondly (over slack) about their break, celebrating anniversaries, birthdays. Those who didn’t also spoke fondly about their midnight gaming, weekend outdoors, and even property hunting. So it’s not about their rest, at least individually.

How to manage your team’s rest?

My latest hypothesis, is that we need the team to rest together. In order for the team to work together, they must celebrate wins together and rest together.

This epiphany came because often times, we work very different times. I work still 3 in the morning because that’s the only time when everyone can leave me alone. Others start their race before the rooster crows. Collaboration is supposed to be asynchronous but it doesn’t work that way because the information exchange density per unit time is much more when we engage all our sensors (read the document, while listening to presenter, watch his or her body language, even typing and writing notes).

In other words, regardless of how tiring it is to work with a person over conference calls, that’s the only way forward at this point. And it really means a lot of calls. Despite limiting what we call “collaboration hours” to the afternoons, I found myself in calls in the mornings (mostly with customers), and evenings (with the late owls of the team).

Sleep .. zzz

And so it is, until we as a society figure out something else. Do you have a way to prevent me from sleeping at 2+ 3am in the morning? Please leave a comment.

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