Distractions, distractions, distractions! Part 2
10.12.2010
Lisa Bottom in Collaboration, Distractions, Focus Work, Focus on Focus, San Francisco, Workplace Design

Wow! I think I hit a nerve. Thanks to all of you who took the time to answer my first post’s question, which was: What are the top three distractions that keep you from getting work done at the office?

I was amazed by the number of responses and the passion in them! The distractions that seemed to top the list were:

Number One: Loud, disruptive co-workers
With variations on this theme (two of which included co-workers meeting loudly next to one’s desk), this was mentioned in 9 out of the 18 responses.

Number Two: “Emergencies”
This was mentioned three times as something that really drives us nuts—the constant barrage of things that are so-called emergencies (ah, the tyranny of the urgent), but often turn out not to be that big a deal.

Number Three: Technology
Yes! The very thing that makes our work lives function, is also the thing that drives us crazy because it is SO distracting. Those mentioned were e-mail “bings” (that little noise that lets you know “You’ve got mail!” every ten seconds); Blackberries; IM’s that come even when you say you are busy; and the phone.

The phone comments were among the most interesting, ranging from people who use speakerphones for conference calls in an open office (AAARRRGGGHHH!) to general complaints about overhearing phone conversations. I personally use the phone in an interesting way to help me get work done.

Here is a deep dark secret of mine. In the San Francisco office of Gensler it is a big no-no to interrupt someone on a conference call. So sometimes (I hope I am not going to regret this admission), I actually put on my telephone headset and pretend to be on a call so people will leave me alone—and it works! Yes, it’s true. I am that desperate for some heads-down focus time.

The phone issue even sparked a response from Architect Magazine, who sent me a link to a very interesting article about the distraction of overhearing phone conversations, and a phenomenon they called a “halfalogue”. I encourage you to check it out.

So with this article in mind, I pose Question Number Two:

Do you agree with the theory that hearing a “halfalogue” is more distracting than hearing an entire conversation—even if that dialogue (or multilogue?) is happening right next to your desk? If so/not—why?

Please let me know!

Erik Lucken
Lisa Bottom is a Principal in Gensler’s San Francisco office focused on work with law firms and professional practice organizations, as well as participation in the Product Design practice. Her passion is developing a culture of excellence in client service. Contact her at lisa_bottom@gensler.com.
Article originally appeared on architecture and design (http://www.gensleron.com/).
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