Reducing Daily Interruptions is on You

When working on improving a team’s efficacy and execution, it’s often clear that the norm nowadays has become total disregard of managing schedules and decreasing interruptions to a minimum. Where a couple of years ago you could see managers and engineers say they only check their email every X hours, Slack has completely stopped that movement.

Can you truly be surprised people can’t hold a thought and be productive when every 10 minutes someone sends a @channel message that pops a notification? Or they get a question that pulls them from whatever they’re doing when there was zero urgency involved?

It can feel obvious, but I believe nowadays everyone needs a crash course on the company’s communications etiquette, and you’d do good to make sure that it’s part of your onboarding as well. Have default recommended settings on Slack so that people only get interrupted if things are urgent and make it clear that anything that doesn’t require someone’s immediate attention either goes in the appropriate channel without a @channel in the message, or should go to email, Jira, etc.

Reduce the amount of private messages – especially when communicating with people outside of the team. Communication in the open and in the proper channels means that more people can stay in the loop, reducing the need for repeating things and questions being asked over and over, and ultimately reducing the number of “syncs” and other ineffective meetings.

And, most importantly, make sure that everyone understands the importance of reducing interruptions and letting people focus. The workplace should not be some robot factory, but it should be clear when someone is in the zone or trying to get into it, e.g. don’t interrupt a person if she’s with her headphones on and for Slack, since you can’t see headphones, either start using away/DND freely, or stop DMing unless you absolutely have to. Let’s get some work done.

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