Managers, Please Stop Interrupting Your Employees

Ask yourself: where do you really want to go when you really need to get something done?

Typically, you get three kinds of answers. One is a kind of a place, so you’ll get things like the porch, the basement, the library, the coffee shop. Then you’ll hear things like a train, a plane, a car – basically, the commute. You’ll also hear people say, “It doesn’t matter as long as I’m working in the morning or on the weekend.”

Least of all, you’ll hear someone say, “The office.”

Businesses spend millions to make the workspace more efficient so go to it all the time, yet people don’t do work in the office.

Work Productivity : A Myth?

Jason Fried, the co-author of Rework, dug a little further and found that people really need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get something done. There are all kinds of interruptions at the workplace – endless emails, incessant IMs, unscheduled meetings, in-person drops-in, and over-indulgence on social media. As with creative people – writers, engineers, designers, programmers and thinkers; they cannot get any meaningful work done. This is why people choose to work from home, or they might go to the office, but they might drop in really early in the day or late at night when no one’s around.

Managers and bosses often fear that allowing access to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks might be negatively affecting work productivity. Tweeting and posting may have become the modern-day smoke breaks, and those aren’t even real problems in the office.

According to Fried, the real problems in the modern office today are managers & meetings. Managers are basically people whose job it is to interrupt people. They don’t really do the work, so they make sure everyone else is doing work, which is an interruption.

The so-called helicopter bosses feel the need to hover in order to check-in, or to keep things on track. They keep interrupting people at the wrong time.

Even more of a catastrophic waste of time is: meetings. “Companies often think of a one-hour meeting as a one-hour meetings,” says Fried. “If there are 10 people, it’s a 10-hour meeting, not a one-hour meeting. It’s 10 hours of work productivity taken from the rest of the organization to have this one-hour meeting, which probably should have been handled by two or three people talking for a few minutes.”

People at meetings won’t speak up about complex, important decisions because they’re scared of embarrassing themselves. But they still want to feel as if they’re making a contribution, so they’ll make sure to weigh in on the unimportant stuff instead.

Are You Making Your Employees Less Productive

As noted by an Industry Week survey, 2000 managers claimed that at least 30 percent of their time spent in meetings were a waste of time. In a survey reported by Office Team, 45 percent of senior executives surveyed said that their employees would be more productive if their companies banned meetings for a least one day a week.

A collaborative study by Microsoft, and American Online concluded that the average worker actually works only three days per week. The rest of the working time goes with unproductive meetings.

Meetings and managers are two major problems in businesses today. So, what can one do to remedy the situation?

Jason Fried has three suggestions: No-talk Thursdays, more passive models of communications (email, instant messaging, etc.), and third, simply cancel the meeting if you have the power.

Obviously, you cannot cancel a meeting if it’s extremely imperative. One major newspaper in Switzerland is famous for having its meeting at bar tables without chairs. How about that?

Priyansha Mistry
Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry

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