Frequent interruptions are common in office workspaces, and even more so if you company rents an office that is open plan, as you can hear and see each and every employee and what they are doing.
Whether your colleagues are discussing an up and coming meeting, taking a long personal call, or decided to pump up the music through their earphones just enough for it to be heard by sitting next to them, you will inevitably get distracted from what you are doing.
Apart from the human distractions, we live in a day in age where there are digital distractions, too. I am talking about Facebook, WhatsApp messages and unnecessary phone calls that steer you away from the task at hand, taking you twice as long to finish your workload.
There are a number of ways, however, that you can cope with and help minimise the amount of office distractions you encounter on a day-to-day basis at the office, and we are going to explore three of these ways in this article.
Although this might seem scary and extreme, I can promise you that as soon as you have said “no” once, it becomes a lot easier to do it again, and you will find that people will stop taking advantage of you and interrupting you. There will be interruptions that are unavoidable and too important to say “no” to, of course, but they should be the only exceptions.
The interruptions you can say “no” to are the ones that are avoidable and unimportant – for example: catching up with your work-friend and getting the latest gossip – and by avoiding these instances, you can ensure that you do not have to deal with the consequences later on when you are behind on a deadline or are late to an important meeting.
Take the Reins
It is up to you to account for your time and your output, meaning that any chit-chat, catching up, or useless information that is communicated by you and your colleagues will most likely set you back. You need to take the reins in these kinds of situations, you do not need to respond to any form of communication unless it is useful or contributes to your workload or task at hand.
In order to take the reins, create a system for yourself that may include putting your phone on silent or closing your email window for an hour in order to minimise the distractions coming from your technological devices. As for human distractions, you may choose to tell your neighbouring co-workers that you cannot communicate for the next two hours as you have to complete a task for deadline.
My system includes putting in my earphones and listening to some good music to block out any background noise – this also seems to send out a slightly anti-social message, keeping my colleagues away.
Don’t Make the First Move
Initiating conversation is a sure way for people to interrupt you, so it’s safe to say that you should avoid initiating and sort of communication (and possibly eye contact too) if you want to get through your morning without finding out how your colleague’s weekend was or all of the latest gossip that is going around the office that week. Set your Skype profile to the “away” setting, do not send (or reply to) any unnecessary emails, and don’t make eye contact with colleagues that are constantly walking passed your desk – as that is a sure way for people to think that you want to engage in some friendly conversation, when you don’t.
Use the three strategies above as best you can to minimise the effects of interruptions your encounter every day, and in turn maximise the time you have to complete the relevant tasks at hand without the weight of worry or stress on your shoulders.