Employees today spend too much time collaborating and too little concentrating, which is bad for both them and our organizations. Find out how we can reverse the trend and restore balance to these critical work modes.
You can never have too much of a good thing, the old saying goes.
Or can you?
That’s what I wondered when I saw a news headline stating that researchers found that employees today spend 50% more time collaborating than they did 20 years ago. Continue reading →
An analytical tool used by retailers, webmasters and football (soccer) clubs may help us configure our office spaces for added employee efficiently. The proof is right there in the red, yellow, green and blue hues.
If you’re a football fan, you’re probably familiar with heat maps. They’re splashy TV graphics that show where on the field players spend their time. They’re also powerful analytical tools to help webmasters optimize a site depending on how people’s eyes scan it or guide retail planners on where to place promotions around the store floor.
As useful as heat maps are to coaches and shopkeepers, they may be equally important to our organizations.
Today, I had a confetti day: this means that I had to spend the night in my kitchen, doing the things I was supposed to do during my workday – meaning earlier today. Confetti days are days where you are constantly interrupted with minor or major issues which were not on your original to-do list, making it impossible for you to complete even the smallest of task. It rips your day into little pieces and ensures that your program at close of business is roughly the same as it was at the start of the day. We all have those days, and it seems to be my turn today.
Confetti days are part of the modern workplace. According to a study carried out at the University of California, office workers in the study were, at one point or another, interrupted roughly every ten minutes by colleagues, their smart phone, or e-mails. While not every distraction may throw you off course, there is a great deal of distraction to take into account, and some of it is bound to pull you away from what you were doing. Once thrown off track, it can take as much as 23 minutes for you to return to the original task, i.e., if you even succeed in getting back to the original task.
According to the study, the average interruption lasts approximately five minutes. Whether or not it takes you 23 minutes or more to get back to what you were doing, it adds up to many hours lost. It is frustrating for the individual interrupted, but also costs the business a considerable amount of money and lost opportunities. I think we can do better than that.
1. Tell people in your physical space
Simply telling people in your physical space that you are busy or need to concentrate will help some. Only rarely will people intentionally interrupt you if you have told them you are under pressure to perform. Actually, your co-workers will go a long way to protect you from interruptions and shield you from outsiders by taking care of questions and issues themselves.
2. Set presence indicator on “busy”
This is a no-brainer, but few of us do it. On your UC client: Lync, Jabber, etc., you can place a “don’t disturb” or “busy” tag to your status indicator. This means that your colleagues who are about to send you a message are warned not to. Since no one wants to be intentionally rude, they will often wait or send you an e-mail if it is urgent.
3. Get some music going
This one’s my personal favorite. I’ve written before about how the right music can really help you focus. On top of that, it masks some of the office noise around you.
This works even better when combined with a noise-cancelling headset like the Jabra Evolve. I promise I’m not saying this just because Jabra pays my bills. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt the need to slap on my trusty Jabra Evolve 80 and drown out the noise with some sweet Spotify tracks.
In fact, I wrote most of this very post while soothing tunes from Morcheeba washed gently over my ears. True story.
4. Don’t pick up the phone
I actually got this tip from my IT guy, who handles much of his work on the go. He says that 90% of questions solve themselves if the person asking the question is forced to leave a message. Thirty percent of all interruptions are questions from co-workers – at least some of them should be able to wait an hour or two. While this may not be the case for you or me, not feeling like you have to take every call is a good strategy when you have to get things done without interruptions.
5. Go somewhere else
Not being there to get interrupted is also effective. Finding a conference room or working at home, if possible, will save you from much distraction. This, however, is not always possible, as you sometimes need your workstation or just the feel of your desk to make you productive.
Unfortunately, confetti days are here to stay – they are a fact of the modern workplace. You can avoid much distraction by making use of some simple tips and tricks. However, if all else fails, you need to do what I will be doing in a minute: wait for the house to get quiet and then work from the kitchen counter.
Your colleague Suzy is really fun, but she laughs like a screeching seagull. Your colleague Daniel is a nice enough guy, but he’s so loud, people halfway across the world cover their ears when he “whispers.” Your colleague Tom keeps constantly dropping by your desk to tell jokes only he and – regrettably – Suzy find funny.
They’re all great people, but sometimes you really wish they’d just let you work in peace for one single moment. How are you supposed to get anything done when you’re constantly distracted?! Well, here are at least five suggestions.
Hey! Did you know it’s World Productivity Day on Monday, June 20? Me neither. It’s arguably one of the more obscure celebrations. Productivity day? On a Monday? Ugh! But World Productivity Day is apparently a thing. Which is why, in honor of this occasion, I thought I’d share a few tips on staying productive at work. Continue reading →
You can’t see them, but they’re all around you. Group norms are powerful, invisible forces that determine how we interact with others. Here’s how they shape our behaviors and how we can create ones to build high-performing teams.
“Haaaaaaaay everyone! How are we all doing today?!?”
I recognized the booming voice immediately. It was Mads, one of our best – and most boisterous — sales reps, and he was bursting through the doors of our office.
Veteran workers, accustomed to Mads’ infrequent yet euphoric and thunderous visits, jumped up and scrambled to receive his customary high-fives and back slaps.
Newer ones looked at each other in shock and horror, as if to ask, “Who is this person violating our quiet work area?” Continue reading →
The words still ring in my ears. They came from my childhood football coach as he desperately tried to get a group of oblivious youngsters to watch where the ball was being played—and be ready to receive it.
I got thinking about Coach’s words while reading some interesting research about interruptions in today’s open offices. In a nutshell, scientists can’t seem to agree on whether interruptions are good for our productivity or bad. Others weigh in with a qualified “it depends,” based on the context. Continue reading →
Maybe they aren’t able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, but knowledge workers are the real-life superheroes in our organizations. Let’s go behind the mask and see what makes them so indispensable to our success.
What’s the most important position in your organization? Easy, right? The CEO. Or CFO. Or maybe chief product engineer.
They’re all critical, I’ll admit. But in my book, the heroes of every organization are its knowledge workers.
They’re the essence of our organizations. They do the heavy lifting that keeps the products flowing, customers happy, financials in order, patents in force and a whole lot more. Or as the old saying goes, they “keep the trains running on time.” Continue reading →
You lose more than 66 percent of your productivity through accidental noise in the office. That corresponds to more than half your day, in which you were meant to be working, disappearing into thin air. It does not have to be that way. Small changes in the office have major impact on your productivity, sanity, and your bottom line.
I recently learned a new word: schizophonia. Never heard of it? Well, neither had I. But let me explain: according to Julian Treasure, who works with how sounds affects us, schizophonia is a state of confusion experienced when what you hear and see does not match for a longer period of time Continue reading →