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How to respond to workplace interruptions

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How to respond to workplace interruptions

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Last week I explored the shifting perception of the age old question around work/life balance, and in particular how we are increasingly being defined by the work we do.  With the rapid increase of mobile and social technologies enabling us to work from wherever, the boundaries between work and leisure time are blurring more than ever.  Indeed, such is the rate of change in the modern economy that I’ve argued previously about the importance of loving what you do in order to keep on top of these changes.

The same digital and mobile tools that underpin this blurring of work/life boundaries have also invoked a degree of naval gazing as to their effect on our work habits.  With interruptions just an email away, how beneficial are these tools to the kind of knowledge work we are required to do?

A new paper suggests that our personal thinking styles and values play a central role in how we deal with these interruptions, and indeed how we feel about our work encroaching on our leisure time.

With interruptions a growing part of modern work life, the paper provides encouraging suggestions around the benefits of training in mitigating the impact of them, with a knock on effect on the quality of our leisure time.

The key to good mental wellbeing was how the interruptions were perceived.  If for instance they were seen as positive and constructive, by for instance, providing a break from their work, then those individuals were found to spend less of their leisure time worrying about work issues.

The researchers go on to highlight a number of strategies that can be deployed to both help employees respond to interruptions at work, and to better recover when not at work.

  1. Organisations could provide training in time and task management, including assertiveness training with regard to managing interruptions.
  2. Organisations can also play a role in reducing work intensification and the spillover of work tasks and communication into leisure time.
  3. Organisations can also ensure that employees have mandatory periods of unavailability, so for instance, email could be limited to official work hours.
  4. Individuals can also more accurately value the role of leisure and relaxation to their wellbeing by proactively organising enjoyable activities for their leisure time.

So all in all, nothing truly revolutionary here, but it does provide a further reminder on the importance of taking time to recharge our batteries, and to approach the vagaries of modern working life with a positive outlook.

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