How to work productively during Office Hours and not get distracted by the “Noise”

Any working professional will know how difficult is it to concentrate and focus on work in the midst of the office buzz and the incessant chatter that goes on in the cubicles. In addition to the calls and the continuous flow of emails that threaten the focus needed for the task, there is the peripheral “noise” in terms of coworkers asking questions and other buzz that goes on in the cubicle farm based offices of the modern era.

In other words, the number of distractions that working professionals face during office hours is indeed high and this calls for mitigating strategies aimed at ensuring focus and dedication to the task at hand.

There are some simple tips that can be followed to ensure that the focus on the job at hand is not lost. Before launching into a discussion about those, it is important to remember that eminent psychologists like Daniel Goleman have persuasively argued that focus is the hidden driver of professional excellence along with the ability to defer gratification, have an inner rudder or be guided by one’s voice, and the ability to empathize and relate to one’s coworkers in an emotionally intelligent manner.

First, when you are working and focusing on a specific task, ensure that you do not switch between tasks by checking email every few minutes. Further, you can ensure that the chat window (many companies have dedicated online chat software like IBM’s Same Time) is not showing the status as available when you are focused on your task. Research has shown that those who check email and those who respond to the online “pings” every now and then lose focus making it impossible to return to the same level of concentration that one had before the interruption.

Further, ensure that your phone is on silent (both the desk and the mobile phones) when you are working on a task. Of course, following these strategies might not make you very popular with your coworkers and colleagues as they might see as you being aloof and cold towards their requests. However, it would be better if you can bring them on board about these tips so that everyone agrees that there is a time slot during which they can ask questions and chat with each other instead of following a free flowing format.

Next, you need to shut out the “noise” that modern cubicle based office layouts produce as the people in your project team and the other project teams might be talking to each other, answering calls, and engaging in their work, which might produce a buzz. The best thing for you to do in these circumstances would be to get yourself a set of earpieces and plug them on so that you are not distracted by all the sounds and the noise that goes on around you.

Further, if you are a manager, you can set rules that specify when the team members can interrupt each other and when they have to focus on their tasks. Of course, if you are a manager, then you can very well enforce a silent workplace during the times the work is done and prescribe a set of routines that team members have to follow.

Further, many companies have blocked social media like Facebook and Twitter on their premises so that employees are not distracted from their work. While this is resented by many employees, it is our view that being online on social media all the time can lead to severe leakages at work and hence, like the other suggestions, companies can set times of the day when such browsing and use of social media is allowed.

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Employee Development