Every week our news feeds fill with the accelerated effects of COVID-19 Whether it’s the Great Resignation, Great Rudeness, Great Reset, or Great Reshuffling, one thing is true--more contextual understanding is necessary in order to design a more fulfilling and productive workforce experience.  

In The Biggest Truth Most Leaders Misunderstand About ‘the Great Resignation, Inc. contributor Jessica Stillman highlights, “If you want your people to stick around you’re going to have to convince them that what they’re getting from signing in each day outweighs the stress, lost time, and forgone opportunities it costs them.” She highlights a spectrum of employee grievances and opportunities to improve retention. Stillman, Adam Grant, and others have illuminated and put into context the challenges facing talent pipelines across the country.

At the height of going remote in 2020, SCADpro’s home-as-a-hub studio organized a series of FutureProof initiatives with leading industry partners to offer near-real-time problem context and alignment to immediate solutions tapping into our next-generation creative leaders in business. The studio’s first initiative, a 48-hour challenge, brought together 28 teams made up of 110 SCAD students and 29 mentors from across industry.

Three Challenges Facing Talent Pipelines

Studio researchers segmented “how might we” statements around three core problem areas for challenge participants to confront:

  1. Communication/Infrastructure/Productivity
    • How might we encourage greater coworker camaraderie and collaboration via digital platforms?
    • How might we fight miscommunication between employees and their management teams?
  2. Social Connection/Productivity/Mental Health
    • How might we support employee productivity by creating an experience that focuses on social connectivity?
    • How might we promote mental well-being by empowering employees to achieve their productivity goals?
  3. Mental Health/Physical Health/Environmental
    • How might we encourage employee social collaboration by utilizing their physical location’s environment?
    • How might we utilize new environmental (location-based) factors to promote employee physical and mental health? 

While the FutureProof challenge teams discovered many compelling problem-solution fit concepts, one area in particular stood out. That team’s focus was on make, manage, and sync times. Their discovers led us to dive a little deeper into “make-time” vs. “manage-time.”

Make-Time vs. Manage-Time  

You’re likely familiar with the personality differences between right-brain and left-brain people, Type-A and Type-B people, Northerners and Southerners (just kidding about that last one--sort of). But you might not be aware of the important distinctions between makers and managers. And you should. Because if you’re looking to boost productivity--your own, your team’s or a combination of the two--understanding the different ways makers and managers prefer to work will help get your organization there, even when working from home.

In 2009, programmer and co-founder of Y Combinator Paul Graham wrote an influential piece distinguishing the “Maker’s Schedule” from the “Manager’s Schedule.” According to Graham, makers (people with a specific skillset like programmers, writers, designers) prefer to work in long, uninterrupted stretches of time while managers (those who coordinate projects and help move their team forward) think of the workday in terms of hourly increments in which they’re continually context switching, (i.e., swiftly moving from one meeting to the next, problem-solving for their team). The maker generally prefers to think of their schedule in units of full days or half days--because they need time to really engage with a creative task and ignite the working memory. A mid-day meeting or frequent interruptions from coworkers, emails, and calls can impede productivity, not allowing the maker the time and space to “get in the zone.” More recently, these headspaces are more commonly known as “deep work” or “shallow work.”  

Shift the workplace to the home and our research shows how the tension is compounded for both managers and makers. Not surprisingly, a sizable number of respondents cited aspects that make work from home challenging, even difficult, including:

  • ever-present distractions, whether it’s kids needing attention, chores waiting to be done, or the TV in the next room;
  • the space available and the degree of privacy, which in turn determine the degree to which distractions are intrusive and disruptive; and
  • chores, including housework and homework, which represent significant competing challenges, particularly for parents with younger kids, (e.g., K-5) who are simultaneously schooling from home.

The in-office environment provides managers the opportunity to frequently check in with their team, but when working remotely, they may feel disconnected. Some respondents said while working from home they don’t have ready access to critical information or tools that are normally available to them in the office. This lack of access is confounded when they’re unable to walk down the hall and obtain files or assistance from a team member. Facing feelings of disconnection, managers may be compelled to bridge the gap by over-communicating, causing even more interruptions and creating a sense of mistrust in the process.

While managers and makers may work differently, they nonetheless must work together. The manager aligns the work of the maker with the business. Sure, there’s an inherent hierarchy; the manager oversees the maker, helping to ensure productivity and quality. But the relationship is interdependent in that, quite simply, without the maker, nothing gets made. Mix in these different scheduling preferences in order to “get the job done,” and you can see how quickly you might have a mess on your hands.

These differences, along with the fact that creative leaders are increasingly makers and managers at different points throughout the workday, mean that calendar management and business rhythms must evolve to ensure productivity. Some solutions include having calendars made public where employees can indicate meetings times that are conducive to their work schedules. Makers can further curb interruptions by reserving the end of the day for meetings.

The key to success is understanding your role and that of your team members and then using that information to create a work system that fosters trust, respect, and consequently, productivity.

 For an extended version of this article with supplemental graphs, please visit SCADpro's Medium Page.