Shut Down Your IT!

We’ve talked here about the damage caused to productivity by constant interruptions, such as reading e-mail, answering the phone and checking out a Web site (like you’re doing right now).

In short, when your attention is diverted from a task, it takes time for you to get your mind back in the flow of what you were doing. Add up all the interruptions you get during a day and you can see the hit to productivity.

Which is why many companies are now going back to the days of pre-school and installing “quiet time,” periods when workers are sequestered from interruptions to focus on the work at hand. According to the article E-mail is Making You Stupid, companies including in IBM, Intel, U.S. Cellular and Deloitte & Touche regulate the time of some staffers by:

Putting time limits on e-mail use, and even banning e-mail on certain days.
Adopting no-technology days, where employees clean their work space and tidy up the paperwork.
Establish programs and processes that encourage face-to-face contact.
Usually technology quarantines are not enforced company wide, but rather at the department or project level.

The idea of quiet time emerged from research at Harvard Business School, according to the magazine.

“Ten years ago, Harvard Business School’s Leslie Perlow famously chronicled the interruption of a high-tech software company. Its engineers were interrupted so often they had to work nights and weekends. After studying the workplace for nine months, the source of the dysfunction became clear: No one could get anything done because of the bombardment of messages. Perlow came up with an intervention: Quiet Time. For four hours in the morning, the 17 engineers worked alone. All messaging and phone contact was banned. In the afternoon, communication could resume. Given time to concentrate, the engineers got a project for a color printer completed without the graveyard shift.”

A year ago my employer shut down computer access for a day in order to install a new IT power supply. It was revelation. We talked with each other. We talked with customers. We found paper documents we hadn’t seen in years, and threw away paper documents were didn’t want to see ever again. Having time divorced from our computers was almost like a vacation day.

Does your employer enforce some form of quiet time? Do you wish it did?

Source: (25th Feb 2010)

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