When it’s at its best, the business should flow like a river. Everything’s doing what they need to do, goals are being met, and everyone’s happy. Unfortunately, for some businesses, that is rarely the case, rather than being a common occurrence. Workflow interruption is a real challenge and, if it’s not solved, it can be recurring to the point of being expensive. Let’s look at the sources of that work interruption and how you can get rid of the clogging in the flow.
The clearest problem with workplace interruption is that for every minute spent dealing with them, it’s a minute you’re wasting money on. You’re paying employees who aren’t getting work done, supplying power and resources that aren’t getting used, and losing the time you need to earn a profit. But the scope of the problem is much bigger than many truly realize. After interruptions, employees are up to three times as likely to make errors in work. Workers who suffer more interruptions in the workplace state a higher rate of exhaustion. Interruptions even contribute to stress-related health issues such as migraines and back pain. The issue with workplace interruption goes much further than losing money due to lost time. It can erode the core of the business.
Keeping everyone on track
A big source of work interruption is when the team simply has too much on their plate. To some degree, this can be helped by encouraging employees to share information on their workload and to know when to say ‘no’ to extra work and respecting that. But if that’s not possible, then teaching them time management tips and helping them prioritize their work so they know what has to be done now and what doesn’t, can help them avoid feeling overworked and can contribute to combatting against stress. Make sure everyone knows what they should be doing, as well as what they can leave until later. Keep your expectations of them reasonable, too.
Clear the lines of communication
Inefficient communication can be a huge interruption, as well. Let’s look at a couple of examples. For instance, a colleague might check in on their email every half-hour or so and spend time replying to a new email every time they do. Instead, if they set aside an hour in the day to manage their inbox, it stops the busywork of checking from interrupting their other work. Similarly, a very common interruption is having your work stopped because another co-worker has to ask for information that they don’t otherwise have access to. By creating sticky knowledge or using project management software to keep all the relevant resources available to all who need it, you don’t have to rely on other employees acting as the physical gatekeepers of that knowledge, which means their work day is much less likely to be interrupted by someone needing help.
Demolish the distractions
Your employees are human, and humans err. You have to accept that some level of individual distraction is always going to be a component of time lost. The kind of requests for information mentioned above count as external distractions, which they often have little control over. They do have control over internal distractions, however. Many of these distractions can be limited, such as imposing blocks on social media for certain employees. But the best way to tackle it is to make sure morale is high and people are engaged in their work.
Keep the business bug-free
We use our tech to excel where humans might err, but that’s not to say that they’re infallible. Computers have faults all the time if they’re not adequately maintained, so make sure that’s a regular and scheduled occurrence during moments of business downtime. If your business uses an internal network, that’s a whole other potential source of slow-downs, malfunctions, and complete failures. If you don’t have the resources to invest in a team that can take care of all the IT systems in the business, then you have to consider investing in outsourced IT support, instead. Having someone on call ready to deal with any tech-related interruptions is going to allow you to get back up on your feet much sooner than you would otherwise.
Get newbies up to speed
If you’re not careful, work will always slow right down when there are new team members in the office. If they’re replacing someone, it takes them time to learn the ropes. You can reduce the amount of time, however, by streamlining the process by which they learn their role. Take a proactive approach to training new employees by, for instance, having them mentored by the person they’re replacing or another colleague if possible. You can systemize much of the knowledge they have to learn, such as methods for certain processes, too, so they spend less time figuring it out themselves and avoid much of the trial-and-error that new employees often have to face.
Craft the best work environment
The actual physical office environment in which the team works can have a big impact on work interruptions, as well. For instance, consider the very layout of the office. If someone has a much longer route to take to the printer or any other resource they need, that’s time wasted every time they have to use it. But poor office layout can result in easy distraction, too. If you rely on entirely open office plans, then noise can be unbearable, especially for those who have to work on phones or in small groups communicating with one another. Being able to provide private, secluded space for those who need it is a necessity in most modern businesses. At the same time, you have to provide more communal spaces for when those team members need to work together. A physical barrier when it’s not needed can be as much as an interruption to the flow of work.
The chances that you will ever get rid of 100% of work interruption is very slim, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Just as pushing for growth should be an eternal goal, pushing for efficiency is the eternal challenge. So long as you keep investigation and fighting the sources, you’re more likely to stay on top of it.