How many times has someone approached and asked you if you got a minute, while you were trying to perform a complicated task or project? Or how many times your phone started ringing or vibrating in the middle of something which requires deep concentration levels? Frequent interruptions at work have become a serious problem in recent years. This matter needs to be addressed in the right way since it is affecting millions of people worldwide every day and causing irreparable damage to companies and employers.
The actual numbers are staggering and jaw-dropping: work interruptions can cost you even 6 hours a day. The typical office worker is forced to switch tasks or is being interrupted by someone or something every three minutes. And it takes him or her more than twenty minutes to pick up where he or she left off. All of this amounts to literally hundreds of billions of dollars in pure loss.
One of the reasons why this problem is so persistent and hard to tackle is that people are actually hardly aware of it sometimes. They attribute these constant interruptions to the nature of their work. The studies even show that employees hardly ever complain about this – only 13% said they’ve ever spoken to their boss or coworkers about dealing with interruptions. But even when they do speak openly about the problem, only one-third of them reported any kind of progress towards some sort of resolution.
And while all of this sounds pretty discouraging, you as a company leader, manager or HR person should do whatever is in your power to raise the awareness of this issue. Encourage people to openly talk about this and do whatever it is in your power to help them. This is only a first step, but it is the crucial one also. You might even not know how much time and money you’re losing with the loss of productivity that comes as a result of frequent interruptions your employees are facing every day.
Get Rid Off the Distractors While You Work
Things like smartphones or any other mobile devices that vibrate and distract you from work should be put away. In case your job actually depends on these gadgets but you still need high concentration levels for your work, a good idea would be to set the time when you won’t check any notifications or messages. That way you’ll be sure to have some quality time for yourself to perform the complicated tasks for the day.
Unfortunately, not all distractors are as easy to get rid off. The so-called ’Time Bandits’ are the people we’ve mentioned at the very beginning of this article and who ’steal’ your time by stopping by and asking you various non-work or work-related questions. Naturally, you can’t focus on your job as you would be able to if these interruptions were non-existent.
Luckily, there are also some ways to deal with these problems. For instance, you can set up a sign that says ’do not disturb’, and this will let everyone know that you wish not to be interrupted during this period. Alternatively, you can try to find a more quiet place in the office and work from there.
But what about the case when you can’t physically separate yourself from others? This can be a very stressful working environment. The benefit of working areas that are structured this way is easy communication between colleagues. On the other hand, serious productivity losses can be expected.
If you’re an employee, you can try to solve this problem by investing in some noise-cancelling headphones. Although they can offer you some peace and quiet time to get your work done properly, this actually isn’t a long-term solution: these headphones are oftentimes heavy and exhausting to wear all day long.
In case you’re an employer, you can opt for all-around noise-cancelling devices from a company like 45db Workplace Acoustics which offer an adaptive sound masking. These devices ensure that everyone’s concentration levels and productivity stay high throughout the day.
Pay Attention To How You Communicate With People
This is another thing that you can do personally – if you find yourself in situations where you’re being interrupted more than your colleagues, for example, you need to pay more attention to the way you communicate with people.
Try to set the right tone early. We’re not suggesting here that you should be unpleasant to the co-workers in any way, but to kindly let them know that this type of behaviour affects your productivity. Approach your colleagues and tell them openly that you can’t answer their questions immediately.
Learn how to be assertive and ask everyone to respect your personal time. You’ll quickly discover that people will actually pay more attention and interrupt you only if it’s very important or urgent to get your answer quickly.
Everyday interruptions at work are causing everyone to suffer. They induce stress, productivity levels drop significantly and employers are losing large amounts of money. That’s why it is of utmost importance to address this problem and solve it to the best of our abilities.
If you’re an employee, you can try talking to your colleagues and ask them to respect your scheduled peace-time. Also, make sure to get rid of unnecessary distractions like mobile phones if possible.
On the other hand, if you’re an employer, try to raise everyone’s awareness about this problem. You can also consider opting for noise-canceling devices that would solve much of everyone’s troubles.