Do office interruptions make us less productive?

The research is in and the answer is a resounding yes. Pointer Remote Roles founder Jo Palmer says remote working could be the solution and delivers some timely tips on how to convince the boss that out of office employment will pay dividends.

Don’t interrupt me while I’m interrupting
— Winston Churchill

According to a University of California study, regaining our initial momentum following an interruption can take, on average, upwards of 20 minutes. In another study, Gloria Mark of the University of California, found that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption, while it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. And, it gets worse with the news that open plan offices are even worse for employee productivity.

This may explain why there are people floating around in the corporate world with impressive titles like “efficiency and workflow consultant” and “business efficiency navigators”. But I digress. Many of us, (myself included) work most effectively in relative silence, even the tapping of co-workers keyboards can prove distracting for some. Admittedly my habit of calling out across the office to fellow worker bees, was probably far more distracting than I care to remember. 

Another virtual colleague who spends four days working from home and a day a week in her employer’s office, believes that her one day spent physically in the office is by far the least productive period of her week. Citing constant interruptions, deskside chats and the temptation to get pulled into meetings, she estimates that her output is at least halved. 

 Here is my husband Hugh. He wears noise cancelling headphones when I'm around. He says I'm too noisy on the phone.

Here is my husband Hugh. He wears noise cancelling headphones when I'm around. He says I'm too noisy on the phone.

So, short of donning noise cancelling headphones, what are the solutions for opting out of the open plan work environment and how do you pitch the concept of remote working to your boss?

Firstly, reference some hard data such as a PWC study, that cites the 38% of U.S. workers who work from home at least one day a week, a fourfold increase over the 9% in 1995. Or closer to the home, the 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey that calculates 3.5 million employed Australians work from home on a regular basis. 

Secondly, suggest a dummy run. Offering to work from home for a set period of time might help to get your boss over the line. Set a date for when the trial ends and then assess the pros and the cons in a collaborative manner. 

Thirdly, establish set some predetermined KPI’s and focus on output rather than hours spent at your desk.

And lastly, try and anticipate any issues your employer may have and be sure to have a raft of reassuring answers on hand to allay his or her fears.

#workremotely #flexcareers #flexiblework #escapetheratrace


Jo Palmer