Leadership, Ethics, and Trust

Interruptions:How to Tame One of the Worst Office Productivity Killers

In today’s workplace, technology has essentially reduced the cost of communication to zero. But while there are many benefits to more open communication, there is also a cost: We experience more interruptions during the workday. One inquiry into workplace interruptions found that:

  1. The average worker experiences seven interruptions per hour.
  2. They spend about five minutes dealing with the typical interruption.
  3. About 80 percent of these interruptions were described as adding little or no value.

This means that many people are spending up to three hours a day dealing with low-value or no-value interruptions. This seems to be true for GFOA members: a poll conducted by GFOA showed that more than a quarter of respondents rated interruptions as the most annoying source of lost time at work, making it the second greatest annoyance, after meetings.

Saying that people spend up to three hours a day on interruptions actually understates the problem. Because interruptions occur at unpredictable times, we are constantly forced to break concentration to deal with them. It can take up to 25 minutes to reach full concentration and get into the flow of a task, which means that some people may be spending their entire workday in a chronically distracted state, never reaching full concentration.

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