We interviewed personal productivity trainer Dan Gamrot on this topic, and he advises that the foundation is to build healthy, trust-based relationships with workmates rather than quashing problems.
Dan Gamrot is the leading Czech expert on personal productivity and time management. He helps to configure them at major corporations and regularly lectures on this subject area.
We met him at the “Save Time” training course he provides along with Pavel Minář, as well as several times afterwards. Both we and he have worked in open spaces and regularly visit them to meet our clients.
I work in an open-space office, and I can’t really concentrate, because my workmates keep interrupting me. I like them, but I also want to do my work so that I don’t have to spend my evenings at the office or finish my work at home. What do I do about this?
It’s a complex affair that depends on both you and your workmates. You have to know what kind of important work you have. If you don’t know, then you won’t be able to convince others that they should wait. Naturally you should also respect your teammates if you’re working in a team.
But if you know you’re doing important things right now, then they have to understand that their query will wait, and that you really will attend to it later on. You do need to go on and keep your promise, because otherwise you’ll lose trust, and your workmates will interrupt you constantly, because they won’t be easily turned away.
What else do you need for this?
Enough energy. Not just for the work itself, but also for the decision-making processes connected with it – what you’ll be working on, and what not. So sleep, eat, and exercise well. And of course maintain good relationships with your teammates.
It’s easier to convince them they should only knock in urgent situations and when they really don’t know what to do anymore if your relationship with them is solid. It’s nice to work on that progressively; lots of people only do it when they need something. So they end up firefighting. Prevention is far better.
And if it’s urgent and there’s no time for building relationships?
If your work on an important report has been stalled since morning, leave the office, don’t be visible, hide. Start working on the things mentioned here after the workload dies down. And you can additionally try, for example, the following:
- Use some kind of signal and teach others to work with it (FREE/DO NOT DISTURB)
- Argue using information, not by saying you don’t have time or you’re busy. Always in a team, project, or company context.
- When you promise “I’ll give it a look later on,” go on and do it without a reminder or don’t promise it at all. Build trust and strengthen your relationship.
- Teach your workmates to work things out online rather than in-person. To send emails, plan meetings, and use Slack or Skype. In short, tools that you can open once you have time.
- Once people have learned that they can interrupt you at any time, it will take a while until you change that – but just hold out while working on good relationships.
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