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Avoiding Interruptions in the Workplace

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We think of the office as where we work. Yet if you really want to focus on crucial tasks, heading to our desks during regular business hours is a terrible idea.

That was the premise of an opinion piece on CNN.com, Why the office is the worst place to work. The full article, by entrepreneur and speaker Jason Fried, includes gems such as the following:

When you’re in the office you’re lucky to have 30 minutes to yourself. Usually you get in, there’s a meeting, then there’s a call, then someone calls you over to their desk, or your manager comes over to see what you’re doing. These interruptions chunk your day into smaller and smaller bits. Fifteen minutes here, 30 minutes there, another 15 minutes before lunch, then an afternoon meeting, etc. When are you supposed to get work done if you don’t have any time to work?

When’s the last time you had three or four hours to yourself to get work done? It probably wasn’t at the office. A phone call, a co-worker tapping on your shoulder or knocking on your door, a required meeting — all the things prevent you from having long uninterrupted stretches of time to get things done. Good work requires thinking, and thinking requires time.

In fact, Fried had summarized his entire thesis in two simple, profound sentences:

The modern office has become an interruption factory. You can’t get work done at work anymore.

workplace productivity meeting

© Flickr user UP There Everywhere

There are all kinds of suggestions in the article for making the workplace somewhere you can actually be productive. Fried promotes everything from skipping meetings to having days where no one is allowed to talk to each other. These might sound like radical ideas, but the problem is so profound that crazy might just be needed. Work is, in fact, a place where you can’t get much work accomplished!

The idea about skipping meetings is an especially interesting one. There’s a certain power to having something canceled and suddenly having time you hadn’t planned on. We’ve talked before about decreasing the amount of scheduled meetings in your organization, but try removing one last minute. It’s never too late to decide that a meeting is redundant or could just be handled through email. Obviously you don’t want anyone to prepare a presentation for the meeting and then pull the rug out, but if a meeting is canceled the day before, the feeling of having an hour you weren’t expecting can be awesome, for both you and the others who were supposed to attend.

The author also talks about using passive communication tools like email or texts. Yes, it’s true that using those instead of a phone call is almost always a better option when the issue isn’t an urgent one. Just be careful that no important meaning is lost due to communicating in a less direct manner. But when it’s something that doesn’t need instant attention, deliver the message in a way that doesn’t demand instant attention, from the person you’re communicating with and yourself.

We have covered the irony of workspaces, their effects on the business improvement process, overall corporate productivity, and even workplace productivity. If you want more productivity, give employees more freedom over the manner, place and time they conduct their work. Some will abuse the privilege, but most will take to the skies.

Learn more about how workspaces impact efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Don’t hesitate to contact our business process transformation consultants today! We can help you find a productive workspace.

Thanks to reader Eric Marasco of Proforma Distinctive Marketing for the idea for this post.

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