Businesses and organizations spend all this money on the office, and they make people show up there all the time, yet that's not where the work gets done. What's that about? Why is that? Those are some of the questions about the workplace asked by Jason Fried. He is co-founder and president of 37signals, a Chicago-based company that builds web-based productivity tools. He also co-authored a book, along with David Heinemeier Hansson, called Rework, about new ways to conceptualize working and creating.

Workplace issues have been on my brain recently, with particular emphasis on the physical place, that fixed location, where many people show up ostensibly to perform the work, although Fried takes exception to that quaint notion. And as I wrote about in this post, there are transformative changes taking place in terms of how we work, where we work, and who is performing the work.

In the midst of this, I came across this TED Talk Fried gave about the lack of productivity at work. (Watch it at the bottom of this post.)

In the talk, he says companies find a space, fill it with furniture and computers and other tools, and then have a reasonable expectation that work will get done there.

"But we can't seem to get much done at work," sates Fried. "And when people want to get work done they don't typically think of going to the office."

Fried opines that when most of us think of work, three things come to mind:

1) A fixed location, a place or a room, such as the porch, the deck, the kitchen, the basement, the coffee shop, etc.

2) A moving object, such as a plane, train or car.

3) A time, such as early in the morning, or late at night, or on the weekends.

Fried says when he asks people the question about where they get work done they almost never respond with "the office."

"People trade in their work day for a series of work moments. That's what happens at the office. The office is like a Cuisinart. It shreds your day to bits, leaving you small, 15-minute increments to actually get your work done."

"People trade in their work day for a series of work moments. That's what happens at the office. The office is like a Cuisinart. It shreds your day to bits, leaving you small, 15-minute increments to actually get your work done."

That leads to people feeling as if they are busy, but at the end of the work day, looking back and asking themselves, "What did I get done?"

Sleep and work have lots of parallels, says Fried. If either are constantly interrupted, we're not going to get much sleep or complete a lot of work.

"How can we possibly expect people to do their job if they're going to be constantly interrupted?" asks Fried. "People, especially creative types, need long, uninterrupted stretches of time to get things done."

So what, or who, is the culprit? Fried says it's the two M's. Managers. Meetings.

"Meetings are just toxic, terrible, poisonous things," says Fried pointedly. "The managers call the meeting so the employees can come together and it's an incredibly disruptive thing to do to people. Stop doing what you're doing, come to this meeting, and talk about the things you're supposed to be doing."

He says meetings also cost companies more than they know. For example, he says simply if 10 people are in a one-hour meeting that's equivalent to a 10-hour meeting in terms of lost productivity.

So what does he suggest as an antidote? These three things:

1) No talk Thursdays. Or any other day. Pick a day, say once a week or once a month, where no one in the office can talk to one another.

2) Switch from active communication to passive communication. That means avoiding walking into each other's offices or cubes and indiscriminately talking to co-workers, and instead emailing or IM'ing them, so they can be selective about the distraction.

3) Cancel your next meeting. You won't miss it, Fried said. And the office will stay open. And the company will survive.

When you think of work does the office come to mind? Are there other places - and times - where and when you are more productive? Do you consider interruptions part of the job, or something that keeps you from actually doing your job? Do you have other solutions for how to avoid them? What about meetings? Are they the bane of your existence in the workplace or necessary?

Tags: HR, HR Trends, Productivity, Meetings, Industry, Jason Fried, New places to work, New ways to work, Rework, TED, Workplace issues