How long would your job last if you ignored all phone calls, e-mail, requests from your co-workers, meetings, and kept your door locked all nine hours of your day allowing nobody in? You’d probably be fired within a very short period of time. But if you did this while getting your work done, allowing absolutely no interruptions, the quality of your work would probably be at it’s absolute best.
It’s a shame that we have to put up with so many of these distractions and interruptions throughout the day. Employers have no idea how much the quality work at their office suffers. If I am working on a project and the phone rings 11 times per hour, I am only working in four or five minute bursts and my train of thought will get constantly interrupted. It’s unlikely that I will do a good job, because after awhile my brain will get used to being stopped in it’s tracks.
To solve this problem I propose the following solution for any smart manager who wants to increase productivity in the office.
Pick two consecutive days of the week, preferably ones that are less busy. Tuesday and Wednesday are ideal.
On the first day, conduct business as normal, but keep track of how much work actually gets done by taking a survey of some sort at the end of the day. But please, for the love of all that is good in the world, don’t keep your employees past 5pm!
For Day 2, apply the following rules:
- 1 – No employee may answer their phone all day. If it is important, you handle the call by setting up auto-forwarding on their lines.
- 2 – Employees may take lunch and breaks whenever they wish
- 3 – Company E-mail is disabled for the day
- 4 – The internet is disabled for the day EXCEPT when necessary to complete job-related tasks
- 5 – No meetings are to be held all day of any kind
- 6 – (The most important) You (the manager) may NOT ask employees to do ANYTHING all day. Leave the work to them. Absolutely no micro-managing.
At the end of the day, compare the results with the first day. I’ll bet almost anything that the quality of work in the office for day 2 was FAR better.
You don’t have to turn off the phones all day, every day in the name of monotasking. This would be very, very bad. But it is important that distraction be kept to a minimum. You may want to consider having all calls forwarded to voicemail (or you) for half the day. You can pick and choose which elements from the second day of the experiment worked well. Your workers may resent the “no-internet” rule, so keep this in mind and see if it’s necessary.
The biggest surprise of all could be when you discover that loosening leash a bit actually encourages productivity. Micromanaging just makes people unhappy. Encourage your employees to think for themselves, set their own deadlines, and trust that they will get work done on time. They’ll be happy with you for it, and work harder. They don’t need any more interruption in their lives, and neither does your business.
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Wendy September 18, 2007 at 4:40 pm
Interesting idea, Mike, but in a customer service environment, nearly impossible. I mean, what do you tell the customers, “we’re not around, today?” Someone needs to be answering emails and phones! On the other hand, I’d like nothing more than to ignore the pesky emails and ringing phones, so I do agree with you in theory, and wish this could be.
Mike September 18, 2007 at 6:49 pm
This is a good point. There are certain environments where disconnecting all the phones for a day would be a very bad idea. However, I argue that there are many small businesses and divisions within larger corporations (non customer service) that could get away with this.
If you are not getting contacts from customers/clients that must be dealt with immediately, then this is a completely feasible experiment. If you are a manager, give it a try. Take a chance.
Dissappearing Act: How To Make Yourself Less Available at Work – The Great Office Escape January 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm
[…] that you need to take a call if the phone rings, even if you are in the middle of a project. Mono-tasking has been replaced by multi-tasking. So how can you escape this world and get a chance to focus? Your boss/clients wouldn’t like […]