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Thanks to some efforts from members of the community, we've since created a more targeted definition of what our site is about. The nature of our topic has made this challenging, but here is what we've come up with so far as taken from our Help Center's On-Topic section:

The Workplace Stack Exchange is a Q&A site about the workplace and other career-related topics. It is for members of the workforce to get answers on topics such as the job hunting process, interviewing, salary negotiation, and professionalism within the Workplace.

We've done a fantastic job of setting some clearer boundaries as to what is and isn't on topic, and this definition makes that pretty clear, which is important for a healthy Stack Exchange site.

Recently, a user asked the question, What to do when overwhelmed at work?, and this was closed as off-topic. The post has some notable problems, such as bordering on a shopping question, but it got 3 really great answers that focused more on process than taking the bait and answering with a one liner link answer.

The question could be edited to focus on the process, but the question still remains if this area, workplace productivity, is on-topic on The Workplace. We know some sites share a healthy overlap with other sites, and this post would clearly be on topic on Productivity SE, but the question we must answer is this:

Is a question about how to be more productive in the workplace on topic on our site, The Workplace SE? Why or why not?

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    I think we should allow productivity questions, being productive is a large part of the workplace, it might have some overlap on productivity but i can name endless cases where more than 1 site encompasses a similar area. I will write a better answer later but as far as i am concerned, as long as it isnt a resource request, and is about workplace productivity rather than personal productivity then i think they should be allowed – Rhys Sep 17 '13 at 11:02
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    @RhysW - Because of the overlap, it would definitely have to involve productivity in the workplace. There are personal productivity questions that loosely relate to the workplace. Many CEO's and successful people exercise in the mornings, for instance, to keep their brains sharp and work productivity high. However, a question like that would blur the line too far into Fitness SE or Productivity SE to really be about The Workplace SE. – jmort253 Sep 17 '13 at 14:52
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I'm not really sure why Productivity.SE exists (having not seen it before today), but while there's overlap, I think workspace-related, but not specific-job-related or purely-personal, productivity questions are on-topic here. They might also be on-topic there, but overlapping scope is fine.

Since The Workplace isn't just about the space but about job/career stuff, it seems natural to ask questions like "how do I improve my team's ability to meet deadlines?" and "how can I keep the daily status meeting short and focused?" and "how can I better focus on my work in a noisy cube farm?" here. But it isn't ok to ask questions like "How do I increase my sales numbers?" (job-specific) and "How do I increase my reading speed?" (too general/personal) here.

If a productivity question is about productivity in the workplace it's on-topic here. If it's about productivity in general it's not. If a question is about a specific job function it's also off-topic, quite aside from whether it's about productivity.

As for the question that prompted this meta post, my reaction to it was kind of "meh" -- not because of topicality but because it seems kind of localized and subjective. A different question about multi-tasking or dealing with frequent interrupts would be just fine.

  • +1 - Those are great examples of on-topic and off-topic questions. – jmort253 Sep 17 '13 at 17:59
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    I disagree that "how do I improve my team's ability to meet deadlines" is a productivity question -- the productivity tag pigeon holes all responses in to discussing how to improve productivity, when the correct solution may be to plan more contingency in to the schedule, or reduce scope, or otherwise do the same rate of work while still meeting a deadline. Ditto with keeping meetings short -- getting a bullet list of effective meeting tactics is less valuable than understanding why the meetings are going long (as that is the actual problem that needs solving) – jmac Sep 17 '13 at 23:55
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In my opinion any question with which can fit here without the tag should stay.

  • "Does my question need the productivity tag to make sense?"
    • Yes - migrate to Productivity.SE
    • No - keep here
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Executive Summary

I would say that while not off-topic, is toeing the line and likely better at Productivity.SE

"Where does it have more overlap?"

Is there going to be be more overlap between workplace productivity and non-workplace productivity questions, or workplace productivity vs. workplace unrelated to productivity questions?

Here are the top voted questions over at productivity:

  1. How do I get myself out of bed in the morning?
  2. How do I deal with distractions when working on a computer?
  3. Does listening to music help or hurt productivity?
  4. How can I improve reading speed and comprehension?
  5. Early birds vs. night owls: what does research have to say?
  6. How do I make myself stop doing addictive activity?

Here are the top voted questions here:

  1. How should I deal with an employee who has slept with my wife?
  2. Is it rude to leave an interview early if you have already made your decision?
  3. How can I overcome "years of experience" requirements when applying to positions?
  4. How can I prepare for getting hit by a bus?
  5. How can I ask my interviewers for feedback following an interview?
  6. How can I tell people to get to the point?

An expert on workplace productivity would be able to answer likely 5/6 questions on productivity. A productivity expert would likely be able to answer 0/6 (maybe 1/6 if you consider having people getting to the point to be productive) over here. So the experts will congregate there, which makes this sort of question more likely to get an expert answer there.

Borderline Off-Topic Aspects

As our Help Center says:

"How do I learn to be a..." / "How do I perform the job of a ..."

Questions should be about problems you are encountering or have encountered in the workplace, and not the learning/applying of specific job functions.

While 'getting stuff done' isn't exactly a specific job function, it certainly does toe the line. For instance, "How can I be more productive at managing inventory levels?" or "How can I increase productivity of bug reporting?" are certainly things that strike me more as "How do I do my job?"

Productivity as a Potential (but not only) Solution

Think of a question like this:

"I just got a horrible performance review because my boss says I don't finish tasks on time. I am working 60 hour weeks but none of my coworkers are having the same issue. How do I become more productive at the workplace?"

I think the Workplace approach would be to figure out what the fundamental issue behind the poor review was (was it poor communication? was it failure to report delays in a timely fashion? was it actually just poor workplace efficiency?), and then to find a way to solve that problem (explaining how to report effectively, or how to deal with delays in a project, or how to explain an underestimate to a boss, etc.). One of the potential solutions would be become more efficient in X or Y or Z, but how to become more efficient in X, Y, or Z would be better suited for productivity.SE

Suggestion

I say we burninate the tag, and migrate the questions (when good questions) to productivity instead.

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    I agree with this; when I saw the question in chat I immediately thought it would conflict with/lead to "How do I do my job?", which is OT. – jcmeloni Sep 17 '13 at 12:40

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