“Do not Disturb” vs. “Let’s Chat”

How do you handle interruptions at work? Share your strategies in the comments below!

Sometimes at work, you just need to concentrate. The smallest distraction can derail your attention, force an error, and double the duration of a task.

Other times, you are open to interruptions to solicit an outside opinion or to have a wellbeing break.

Do your colleagues know when it’s ok to interject? And how you want to be approached?
They are not mind-readers! You have to express your needs to them.

Communicating about your preferences

Here is some language you can use:
“When I’m writing, I need to stay on track so I can get all my thoughts on the page.”
“If you see me trying out different ideas, I usually welcome an outside opinion!”
“After I finish a client interaction, I like to chat about to debrief and get my thoughts in order.”
“When I’m researching and reading, I need to focus or nothing will sink in.”

Traffic Light System

You can also use a physical traffic light system as a visual cue.
🍎 Red means “Please don’t interrupt.”
🍋 Yellow means “I’m open to some types of interaction – let’s see.”
🍐 Green means “Please come and chat!”

Personally, I’m often bouncing around between small, short tasks. So 🍐 I’ll welcome the opportunity to grow my relationship with a colleague. But sometimes 🍎 I need to focus on writing an article or bashing out the structure of a new workshop.

(To the right, an image of ABB’s FlowLight. You don’t need a high tech piece of kit though; a set of coloured papers would work fine!)

Conversations about working styles and practical systems will help you and your colleagues for the rest of your time together. These conversations may feel challenging at first but they get easier the more you do them.

Try having this conversation with one colleague this week and see how it positively impacts your work environment. Share your results in the comments!


Ways of Working

“Ways of Working” is a multi-part series of quick tips to personalize your workplace culture and make it work for you and your colleagues.

If you want help understanding and communicating your own Ways of Working, or if you want to run a Ways of Working workshop with your team, send me a message! Let’s talk.

#WorkplaceWellbeing #CommunicationSkills #Teamwork #Collaboration #Productivity

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