In Episode 24 of Happywork TV, I present the next commitment in my work code of conduct called “The Happywork Agreement.”
This one is made jointly by employers and employees. It goes like this: “When a fellow employee must work in complete concentration, I will try to give that employee a chance to work uninterrupted. What can wait … will wait.”
As I say in the video, in a list of 46 commitments, some are going to be stellar, and some will be just so-so. Reflecting upon The Happywork Agreement, thinking of everything I cut out of it and what I decided to leave in there, it is possible this is one of the weaker ideas. (Although I’d love for you to vigorously disagree with me!).
Getting interrupted at work is not the cardinal work sin that’s tearing workplaces apart. However, let’s admit: it’s just bloody annoying!
I think we become disengaged at work, even grossly unhappy at work, because of big hairy problems, MIXED IN with small little daily crap that accumulates and gets on our nerves. So yes, let’s eliminate the human indecency at work: the abuse, the mind games, the discrimination – the BIG stuff. But hey, let’s take a crack at the little stuff, too. I think that’s where my head was when I put this in The Happywork Agreement.
Google famously allowed its employees to take 20% of their time for personal programming pursuits – I’d call that “thinking time.” It’s the exploration of your biggest ideas, without the pressure to perform. What a wonderful way to learn. At most jobs I’ve worked, I have not found a healthy respect for thinking time. In fact, at most companies, work flow and human communication are both rather dysfunctional. “Getting things done” a mixture of email, voicemail, text messages, memos, hallway conversations, and meetings that go on for twice as long as they needed to. All of this represents interruptions to our “flow” – the ability for us to put our heads down and crank out something beautiful.
Every time you’re interrupted, it takes you anywhere between 5-20 minutes to get back to what you were doing. In an 8-10 hour day, being interrupted 5 times steals a huge chunk out of your day (and 5 is being generous). You’d be more pleased with yourself if you were getting your work done. However, you were meeting with Sally, when all of a sudden, Larry poked his head in your office and started talking … while you and Sally were talking. Rude. Where were we again? In cases like this, I actually appreciate text messages and email for what they are – non-interruption-based communication.
If you see a comrade at the office, and they appear to be working hard, in deep concentration, ask yourself if your needs could be communicated to them in an email.
What do you think?
p.s. Here’s a link to the blog post I referenced in the video.
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