Work in the time of Corona: The 52-17 ratio

March 17, 2020 by Ted Bauer

How to say this … 

… if you are working from home more, you do not need to be on the grind straight through for 10 hours. It’s OK to go get food, get coffee, take your dog for a walk, etc. In fact, it might even be encouraged in some respects.

Whatever do you mean?

Well, first, the infrastructure of the Internet is not really designed for this situation. The way the broader connectivity of the first-world Internet works, it’s “ready” -- we are simplifying this -- for the period right after you get home from work, let’s say. It’s not “ready” for everyone to be on eight-person video chats multiple hours per day. Case in point: What happened to Microsoft Teams as soon as many white-collar roles shifted to WFH? It went down. That’s one of the biggest technology companies in human history, and even it wasn’t quite ready for this. Across the pond, UK mobile users were reporting issues with voice calls.

Taking a break is good for our infrastructure.

But it’s also good for you

Travis Bradberry is one of those “LinkedIn thought leaders.” You may not remember your LinkedIn password unless you work in SaaS sales, and believe us, we understand. But he’s a good dude who regularly posts stuff about compassion in the workplace, which ideally more people would practice day-to-day. We digress. 

Here’s an article he wrote a couple of years back, and pay particular attention to this pull quote:

The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work. For roughly an hour at a time, they were 100% dedicated to the task they needed to accomplish. They didn’t check Facebook “real quick” or get distracted by e-mails. When they felt fatigue (again, after about an hour), they took short breaks, during which they completely separated themselves from their work. This helped them to dive back in refreshed for another productive hour of work.

The title of the article this comes from is something about “the eight-hour workday not working.” Remember when Tim Ferriss wrote a book called The Four-Hour Work Week? It’s been translated into 40 languages and sold more than 2.1M copies. Why do you think that is? Because a lot of people realize they could potentially work less than they do. They’re busy, sure -- we’re not claiming you are not busy -- but they know they could work less. Heck, even in the 1930s, Keynes thought we would all work 15-hour weeks by now. Despite getting more technology, we somehow went in the other direction. There’s a lot of reasons for that, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

So, in those 17 minutes off…

… what can you do? A lot. Most 30-minute network and cable TV shows are 22 to 24 minutes (cheat a little on 17!) if you scroll through ads or watch on Netflix. You can listen to a shorter podcast, if you want. The New York Times drops a podcast every morning called “The Daily” and the episodes are regularly about 17-25 minutes. Recently, as you’d expect, they do a lot on coronavirus. We have also put together podcast recommendations for your commute. If you’re not commuting because you’re currently WFH, then use those recs for your living room or coffee shop (social distance, though). And wear earphones. Ain’t no one need to hear that audio blaring. 

You could also read a book or magazine article for 17-20 minutes, open your mind, and then return to work for about 50 minutes. In fact, while writing this article, I took a break and learned about where AI and facial recognition technology resides right now. I’m smarter now!

What if you can’t work from home?

Do what you need to do to get bread. We understand that you probably have debt, and we understand you need to make some money so that you can put roughly 30% towards housing. 

Be safe, though. And if your bigger bosses close you up for a few days or even weeks, respect that and look for other angles or approaches, best you can. Health is more important than bills, broadly and within this specific time window.

Related: we’ve heard coronavirus referred to as “class war.” That seems like a far bridge, maybe because of the word “war.” But it definitely showcases the gap between those positions that can work remotely and those that cannot. Most people want to do what’s right for themselves and their families, though, and humans are broadly adaptable -- they find ways to make it work.

Be safe above all, though. 

What does this have to do with leasing apartments?

Not everything is a shot at profiteering. We just want to help out. We got our whole lives to make some more cheddar.

The broader point of this is that you have a rare opportunity when you work from home … no one is coming by your desk to ping you about different stuff or throw you into “urgent projects.” You can do your work and expand your mind in relatively equal measure.

52 minutes on.

17 minutes off.

Learn and grow as you keep the trains moving in a work context. 

If your lease is up, soon, though --

… a brief note about searching in a time of coronavirus (more to come this week from some of our apartment complex friends and partners) and a brief note about where the housing market (for buyers) might head in the next 2-3 months. If you need anything, holler. If you’re panicking, sometimes it’s good to offload some life responsibilities from your particular plate.

About the Author

Ted Bauer

Ted Bauer is a writer/editor for White Rock Locators focused on as much cool content about the DFW Metroplex rental scene as he can possibly find week-to-week.