By Joanna Swash, CEO at Legal Futures Associate Moneypenny
Over the past year workers’ stress associated with the interruptions caused by remote working – such as Zoom meetings, deliveries and dogs barking – have increased and recent research shows that stress-related absence soared by 64% in 2020. Further data from Berkeley University revealed that average work interruptions take 23 minutes and 15 seconds to recover from, even if the distraction is only a minute, and the inability to focus on work is directly linked to stress.
To mark World Mental Health day (10 October 2021) Joanna Swash Group CEO at global outsourced communications provider, Moneypenny – which supports more than 1,000 legal firms across the UK – shares tips for minimising interruptions during the working day.
Joanna said: “Lost productivity costs businesses on average £143 billion each year – and results in 1 hour 24 minutes of distraction per employee each day. Interruption drains energy, kills creativity and dampens performance, leading to the dreaded brain fog that can be so debilitating.
“Answering an unexpected call is perhaps one of the most common interruptions that can disrupt the flow of work. When we shift gears, our mind must firstly stop processing what we were doing before refocusing on the new task. Therefore, even a seemingly quick distraction can totally throw concentration off course. Also, when we’re interrupted, we rarely go back to what we were doing beforehand.
Joanna continues: “Businesses need to actively help their employees ringfence time for the quiet head down working that is so important to productivity as well as employees’ feeling of accomplishment and control. They must also actively promote and support wellbeing – whether that’s through counselling programmes, cooking lessons, financial education, buddy systems or simply by encouraging staff to simply ‘switch off’ devices for 15 minutes each day.”
Here are some of Joanna’s tips to minimise interruprions during the working day, to help reduce stress:
- Formalise meeting etiquette: With the rise of video calls, it can be tempting to book them in without the level of scheduling that would have gone into a physical meeting – particularly when travel is not required. Video meetings afford flexibility but try to avoid unplanned meetings, or those that don’t stick to time and be mindful of what timezones and respecting working hours if you are a global organsiation. When meetings do occur, always use an agenda to stay on topic and think about companywide ‘meeting etiquette’ to help engender positive change and an empowered approach to time management.
- Outsource communications: If staff know there’s the right infrastructure in place to support them, it can reduce worry. For example, if staff know all customer calls will be handled warmly, professionally and efficiently, even when they’re busy or in a meeting, it can instil calm and focus without a ringing phone breaking their concentration. Outsourced telephone answering, switchboard and outbound follow-up support is the ideal solution for keeping interruptions to a minimum while maintaining client/customer experience.
- Choose technology that aligns: Streamline the number of video and project management platforms in use across the company so that employees get to ‘know them’ and don’t lose time loading different systems or finding multiple log-ins in-between meetings and tasks. There’s real value in keeping it simple and choosing technology that has wider value – for example, our telephone answering system has a Microsoft Teams integration which means call handlers know who’s available and when. The result is less interruption for busy staff, and a better client experience.
- Diary management: Diaries aren’t just for meetings. Encourage employees to use their diaries to block manage their time and include tasks and add detail about whether they’re available or need quiet time. By making sure that front of house, reception or outsourced teams have access to these diaries it’s possible to give employees the space they need to look after themselves, be productive and thrive.