Dealing with Office Interruptions

You are enthusiastically settled into your new office space, certain that it is a productive environment, and ready to achieve as many things as you can in a single day. Then the inevitable happens.

How to Handle Interruptions in the Workplace

Whether you are a receptionist or a senior-level executive, office interruptions happen to the best of us. Some interruptions are urgent or important, and simply can’t be avoided. However, it’s best to be prepared for those interruptions that can be avoided. Here are a range of five actions you can take (some more light-hearted than others) to minimize such disruptions to your productive day:

1. Know your workspace layout

Some workspace layouts are more prone to office interruptions than others. For example: if your desk faces a communal photocopier, printer, or nearby refreshment, you’re more likely to get distracted throughout the day. Certain office layouts seem to be perfectly designed to not get too much work done. In situations such as this example, sometimes all it takes is simple eye contact for an interruption to occur. Before you know it, that person you didn’t mean to make eye contact with is walking your way.

2. Interrupt the interrupter

You know the ones – they come over and tell you how bad their day is – in great detail. Get in first! After they have had to listen to your moans once or twice, they’ll decide to go interrupt some other poor soul – and that’s about the best outcome you can hope for!

3. Got a minute?

A fatal request, because it never is a minute. How often is someone interrupting you because they simply can’t be bothered to think something through or complete a task for themselves? You’ll know the people who try this. Solution: apologize for being uninterruptible at that moment, and invite them to come back at a specific time later in the day. If they return, they probably do need your help; if not, they’ve likely made the effort and sorted it out for themselves.

4. Stand up to greet them – and stay standing

You spot an interrupter on final approach. If you stand to talk to them it’s likely they’ll spend much less time with you than if you invite them to sit down, become comfortable, and settle in.

5. Manage the damage

Interruptions are inevitable, face-to-face, by phone, or even online. Here’s one great way to limit the personal disruption. Before starting to deal with the interruption, take a moment to write down a few words describing exactly where you are in the task you’re working on. Interruption over, this reminder helps you get right back into what you were doing.

From arranging your office space, to managing your head space, interruptions need not be as disruptive as is often the case.