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The “Bright Side” of Workplace Interruptions

With the ever-increasing rate of technological advances, enhanced connectivity and endless supply of content available at our fingertips, it can sometimes be difficult to keep pace with the world around you – both while we are at home and during our time at the office. As a result, time becomes precious because we all feel like we don’t have enough of it.

So, when you’re at work, it’s critically important that you can accomplish the tasks at hand. In order to do this, people use all kinds of techniques – making lists, setting aside time blocks, turning off email notifications for periods of time, listening to music, etc. – all to limit interruptions and get to a state of “flow.”

But, equally important to enhancing productivity, is the need to step away from the paperwork, computer screens and smart phones (dinging with new emails) to stretch, take a mental break and interact with your coworkers.

Easier said than done, right? Maybe so, but we all need to “reconnect” with the world outside of work and take the opportunity to breathe, clear our heads and even relieve some stress. Truthfully, when most people hear the word “interruption” – like we mentioned above – their minds immediately think of something negative, like a rude patron cutting into a conversation or even the news disrupting your favorite TV show so the local meteorologist can share information about a bad storm that’s in your area. Well…

NEWSFLASH: Interruptions can be a negative thing, but they can also be beneficial, especially in the workplace.

In today’s global world, everyone has cell phones and other inter-connected electronic devices, so the threat of too many interruptions throughout the day (at the heart of the negative connotation) is absolutely a reality. Here’s where you can incorporate some of the techniques we mentioned above like turning off notifications on your devices or placing them in a bag or drawer, only looking at them at specified times or after predetermined intervals.

An article from The Conversation classifies interruptions into two categories: time-worthy and well-timed.

  • Time-worthy interruptions are “deemed high priority, relevant to other ongoing projects and clearly within the scope of employees’ jobs.”
  • Well-timed interruptions are “those that arise when employees are not deeply absorbed in another task or need a break from their current task.”


Essentially, whether someone reacts positively to an interruption is frequently based on three factors: 1. the time at which it happens, 2. the subject matter, and 3. the person who is doing the interrupting.

Every workplace is different when it comes to interruptions, but the key is to manage them wisely and find a way to use them to your advantage. So, the next time you’re interrupted at work, ask yourself whether it’s time-worthy or well-timed. Who knows, this interruption might be exactly what you need to refresh and recharge before tackling the next thing on your to do list!


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