Manage Interruptions to Improve Your Team Performance

Manage Interruptions to Improve Your Team Performance

The business world runs on deadlines. If your team fails to meet them, the costs are high. However, it’s not just a matter of acknowledging that your developer is running behind and slowing down the project. It’s also identifying the bottleneck, whether it exists with technical debt, workflow, or simply interruptions.

Scope of the Problem

A study by Plantronics, Inc put the issue of interruptions into perspective, reporting that 99 percent of employees experience distractions in the workplace. It could be something as innocuous as a noisy office. It often runs the gamut of emails, micromanagers, and unproductive meetings.

Complicating the issue are the work habits and preferences of different generations of workers. While Millennials may not find background noise disruptive, it’s another story with Baby Boomers. That makes finding solutions more challenging.

Costs of Interruptions

The fact remains that interruptions have a price. A survey by Udemy reported that 84 percent of employees needed up to a half hour to refocus. That costs businesses money, and it also takes a toll on workers who recognize the loss of productivity.

The result is increased feelings of discouragement and negativity from losing valuable time. Some employees respond to the situation by working faster or multitasking. Unfortunately, it creates a vicious cycle of further negative impacts, peppered with frustration and greater stress to stay on task.

The nature of the distraction doesn’t always lead to the same results. Instead, it boils down to the fact that it occurred at all that matters. 

You may think that the length of the interruption points to the cost. A distraction of even as little as 3 seconds can double the number of errors with computer-based work.

The impacts don’t end there. Udemy also found that 34 percent of respondents liked their job less because of the inevitability and cost of distractions.

Top Productivity Thieves

Let’s face it. Interruptions are a part of the landscape. They will always exist. However, the breadth may surprise you. Consider these numbers.

Individuals around the globe sent an estimated 306.4 billion emails in 2020. That figure is expected to increase by over 22 percent by 2025.

While the length of meetings has decreased since the pandemic, the number has increased by nearly 13 percent, adding to the number of disruptions each day.

Unproductive meetings cost American businesses $37 billion each year, with 47 percent of employees viewing them as wasted time.

About 76 percent of employees named co-workers as their biggest distraction.

Getting Back on Track

Interruptions are costly when you’re working on complex projects. That’s why it’s imperative to find solutions to minimize the noise. Fortunately, simple changes can have profound impacts on your productivity.

The End of Multitasking

The Pomodoro technique offers an excellent way to focus on your work while balancing breaks to keep your brain sharp. It also can reduce the negative impacts of multitasking. Your goal during each 25-minute session is one task. Doing two things at the same time is in itself a distraction.

Scheduling Your Time

Nothing sends a clearer message to co-workers than scheduling time for questions or discussion. It’s especially effective for team calendars where you can block off your time slots. You can also post your calendar on your closed office door to discourage disruptions.

Investing in Noise-Canceling Headphones

Staying focused is challenging enough in an open office or at your personal workspace at home without the background clatter. Noise-canceling headphones are a godsend for blocking out office gossip and ringing phones.

Setting Boundaries

This multi-level approach delineates specific times when you’ll make calls or answer emails. It involves learning how to say no without feeling guilty. It’s about taking back your time and reinvesting it in your productivity.


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