Like a martial artist striking specific pressure points on an opponent’s body, just a few distractions can destroy the whole workday. The good news is that organizations and managers can actually help reduce distractions in the workplace. Maura Thomas says in an article at Harvard Business Review that many leaders don’t know that they are trapped in the following four situations that prevent a team from focusing on producing its best work:
- They create an environment that undermines focus.
- They don’t offer clear instruction on which communication channel is appropriate in which situation.
- They assign the same workers to receive and solve customer issues.
- They don’t realize that monitoring internal systems is still work, even if there is rarely an emergency.
Get Your Head Around the Work
If you treat all kinds of communication occurring in your office as emergency responses to incidents, you will impose more stress and cause more distractions to your workers. Let your employees focus completely on their tasks by designating certain employees for specific customer-response roles, and by clarifying when situations need genuine immediate attention. Make sure to instruct your people about the appropriate channels used for time-sensitive communication. They are different from more casual platforms like email. Don’t push your workers into an alarming situation to see them panic, trying to figure out what to do to solve it.
You will have a problem if your staff have to both receive and solve customer issues. They can only maintain a high level of quality doing one or the other regularly. Therefore, have different teams to receive the problems and brainstorm solutions. Thomas elaborates with these suggestions:
Try organizing the days of your support staff so that each person has time away from phone and email to thoughtfully address problems and get other meaningful work done. Another option would be to appoint a “triage” person, who only handles intake and assigns problems to others for solutions. Either option gives support staff opportunities to devote their full attention to solving problems. This will likely result in happier customers. When staff members have a chance to reflect on issues, they are better primed to recognize systemic problems and opportunities for product and policy improvements.
Last but not least, always have a backup person who can fulfill the obligations of support staff. Thomas points to the obvious example of IT staff who have to make themselves available 24/7 in case of emergencies, even theoretically during vacation. Having a person trained as a backup will relieve stress from individual IT staffers, as well as reduce the risk of knowledge loss when people leave the company.
You can view the original article here: https://hbr.org/2017/02/your-teams-time-management-problem-might-be-a-focus-problem