You’ve been at your desk for 3 hours straight, in the zone and getting stuff done.
It’s just you and your work.
Then all of a sudden, Jeremy from Finance taps you on the shoulder and asks you a question.
Your concentration is instantly broken, your train of thought is lost and you’ve come crashing down from your productivity high.
You wouldn’t mind if he was asking you something related to what you’re working on and if it wasn’t the third time that this has happened this week, but now it has become a frequent occurrence and you’re finding it harder to get back into the zone after the interruption.
He could have just emailed you, but instead, he chose to walk all the way over to ask you a question that doesn’t require an immediate answer.
According to the Leadership IQ quiz “How Do Your Time Management Skills Stack Up?” 71% of people report that they frequently get interrupted when they’re working. Meanwhile, only 29% say that they can block out everything else while working.
As well as being a pain during your working day, the same research found that it can affect how you feel about how productive and how valuable your work has been throughout the day, with people who get interrupted frequently feeling that there’s only a 44% chance that they’ve left feeling like “today was a really successful day.”
With that in mind, how do you resolve this issue?
The answer isn’t isolation and solitude to get your work done, but rather being able to manage how you communicate with others, how people communicate with you and when they can.
Here are 5 Ways to Stop Your Colleagues Interrupting You at Work
1. Using Chat for Office Communication
The fastest, simplest and quietest way to communicate is through a chat tool, however, you’ve got to set some expectations around how it’s used.
Getting rid of the need to walk to someone else’s desk to ask a question keeps your workspace for your work.
In a report by ReportLinker, instant chat allows employees to get answers from colleagues quickly, minimising disruptions, with 45% of those interviewed saying they’re more productive with instant messaging than they would be without it.
Instant chat allows you to send files, documents and suggestions from the comfort of your seat to whomever you need to send them to, without having to interrupt your flow and the recipient’s.
Instead of your colleague having to interrupt you, they can put what they want to say in a chat – allowing you to respond whenever it suits you.
Chat also allows you to multitask while working, so you can send an instant chat to answer straightforward questions from your team without having to completely disengage from your work.
One of the universal benefits of having a chat feature is that it allows you to connect with team members instantly wherever they are. Whether they are working down the hall or on the other side of the globe.
Instant chat that supports sharing files, documents and ideas whilst retaining the chat history, is best for improving team communication and productivity, allowing you to communicate without getting in the way of your work.
If one of your colleagues interrupts you with,
“Do you have that file I sent you last week? I can’t find it.” then this is where a chat feature can help you both.
Instead of having to sift through your sent email chains to remember what was sent, when it was sent, and by whom, instant chat can provide a clear history of conversations, on the record! Each chat is saved and transparent. You can look over what you’ve sent and received, so no more losing documents within email chains.
2. Get Your Focus Mode On
Notifications are really handy. They let you know what requires your attention and can keep you on top of what needs to be done, but they can also be annoying when you’re in a “Do not disturb” kinda mood.
If you’re working to reach an important deadline and can’t have any distractions for the next hour, you’ll need a way of blocking out every office distraction out.
Being able to temporarily mute your notifications is a powerful feature. It lets you get more work done without feeling the urge to check that big red 1 in your inbox.
Tameday has developed Focus Mode to temporarily halt notifications from reaching you whenever you like, for as long as you like.
You’ll not receive any notifications or chats from co-workers. When you’re ready to receive notifications again just turn focus mode off.
Your focus can remain unbroken and your work can get completed on time! No more breaking your productivity at crucial times for every notification.
Mark Murphy writing for Forbes.com suggests setting yourself an hour for Focus Mode:
“Not only will this block off time, it will give you the opportunity to do some deep thinking, but because it’s only an hour, it will put a little extra pressure on you to think and write faster. And that will absolutely improve your work.”
3. Take Charge of an Interruption
Don’t stop what you’re doing when someone tries to interrupt.
You’re the master of your own time, so don’t let them derail your train of thought.
As hard as it might be, try to keep going. Imply that people can wait by your desk as long as it takes for you to finish what you’re on.
Your body language will let them reevaluate the importance of this interruption and they’ll take away the lesson of interrupting you in the future.
Encourage them to get right to the point and, if necessary, stick an event in the calendar for you both to discuss it.
If they’re asking you to complete a piece of work, ask them to add a to-do for you and that you’ll get to it when you have the time and are finished this bit of work.
When they’re interrupting your work then it’s time to take charge and frame the conversation outline from the start. This will allow you to allocate the amount of time you’ve set aside for the interruption. If they go beyond that then they will know they’re encroaching on your work time.
If that doesn’t work and the interruption has bucked your flow, take a few seconds to write down a few crucial points that you’ll need to cover to tackle when you get back to your work, so now you know what to do next when you return to your zone.
4. Set Boundaries and Expectations for Communications
Limiting the reasons for interruptions in the office can create a healthy, productive work culture.
Letting your colleagues know what you’re working on and that you’d like some peace to finish it can only benefit everyone. It might even encourage others to guard their valuable work time more diligently.
A chat or a company-wide message can do the job, so everyone knows what is expected in the politest of terms. No excuse that they didn’t get the message!
If it’s a passing bit of info about the project you’re working on then it’s worth the interruption. A crucial bit of info when working could be favourable to your task at hand.
Set a rule through your office by ranking communication;
- If it is of high importance an interruption is warranted.
- If it’s something that requires attention tomorrow or later in the week then it can be added as a to-do or sent as a chat.
- If it’s instigating a chat about last night’s game then let them know it can wait until lunch.
5. Change the Old Ways
How an organisation communicates internally is imperative to maintaining transparency between colleagues and management, providing a virtual collaboration environment.
Changing your workplace’s methods and boundaries of communication can lead to some growing pains, and show where your everyday internal communication has failed thus far.
Revolutionising the way that your company corresponds with each other can help guide the business to an unprecedented amount of productivity by bringing interruptions to a minimum and communication to the max.
Eliminate interruptions by including everyone in an online space for your business.
Introducing a project management and team collaboration tool within your team can provide open communication through to-dos and discussions, a clear activity stream which allows you to see who is working on what and the ability to have private and group chats without having to leave your desk.
- If all communication is based through online threads then it will always be accessible and accountable.
- Instead of continuing to grant interruption between colleagues, encourage them to organise their thoughts in online internal discussions through your project management tool.
- If they need to have a face to face chat at length, let them schedule a time that suits and insist on an agenda for the meeting.
Make Tameday Your Office’s Preferred Method of Communication
Tameday is a project management and team collaboration tool with communication and productivity in mind.
With Tameday you can add to-dos, open company-wide discussions, set events for important occasions and meetings, and chat with individuals and teams.
Tameday includes a Focus Mode feature to allow to you zone out any notifications and chats that you receive so you can focus on the task at hand.
With the average employee sending or receiving 112 emails per day, an internal chat offers your team a competitive edge over businesses that are still internally communicating solely through email.
Tameday’s chat is integrated within the app so you can still be assigning to-dos, commenting on discussions and setting events and responding to chats at the same time. No need to move to a different tab or application!
Chat allows you to instantly exchange information with a remote working team member, wherever they are in the world.
It’s time to stop the interruptions and develop intra-office communication.