Days of Distraction, Part 2: A True Case Study In Corporate Stress-Relief

A high level of productivity in the workplace environment is a magical state of affairs. It sets the stage for the corporate utopia that all companies aspire to arrive at, and is the driving force behind growth and employee retention. It’s also dependent upon several factors and consistencies directly related to the personal well-being of the staff. Near the top of the list would be a policy designed to prevent or eliminate situations that generate undue stress.

As it turns out, workplace stress is one of the more avoidable roadblocks to productivity. A move as simple as managers and reports joining forces to acknowledge the sources of stress in their specific setting can initiate real progress. One area of acknowledgement where an effective solution is achievable starting today is workplace distraction. As I outlined in Part 1 of this article series, a corporate culture that burdens managers with endless interruptions will soon reveal a productivity crisis that is destined to snowball until it’s addressed. As a follow-up to that article, my intention is to demonstrate how practical it can be to turn disorder into harmony by sharing the success story of one DRIVEN client.

The Story of Cathy

The solution to the distraction dilemma is in plain sight, so long as we are willing to embrace some cultural agreements. To illustrate this, I’ll specifically address the granddaddy of all distraction-inducing practices in the workplace: An open-door policy. The following is an actual client case study, with the individual’s name changed to protect her identity.

As a manager, Cathy had become overwhelmed. She manages a staff of 20, and as part of the company culture, has kept an open-door policy. This progressive approach to managing was an important part of her job, and it kept her team well-oiled. The policy, however, burdened her with constant interruption by folks utilizing it. Month after month, she’d look back on each day and discover that she hadn’t met her OWN goals. She reached out to me for guidance on how to remain available to her staff and still manage to get some actual work done.

Together, Cathy and I devised a plan for her to escape from the productivity black hole and start diving into her own assignments, without sacrificing her commitment to her staff. Here’s how it broke down:

  • We “boxed out” two time segments during each workday when it would be practical for Cathy to hole-up and crank out some work.
  • Next, Cathy educated her team by explaining her challenge, reassuring them that their needs would continue to be important to her. The signal that she was off limits would be as simple as closing her office door, which would not last more than 40 minutes at a time.
  • Then she discussed with her team what constitutes as interruption-worthy, encouraging them not to feel cut off from her when matters arise.
  • Each of her direct reports agreed to keep a list of important, but not urgent, matters and questions. This would save time and provide focus, since she could then address many details in a single interaction.
  • As an alternative to these quick meetings, each direct report could wait for a one-on-one session, held twice per month, specifically designed for list review and perpetual feedback.
  • Finally, Cathy created an individual Google Doc with each team member for the meetings, with the option that if the employee thought certain questions could wait, they could add details to the document, keeping everything in one place and the agenda in real time.

Good Results? You Be The Judge!

After six months of implementing her new plan, Cathy had some promising news. She reported, “I now receive more praise about my focus and organization at work” and “I am able to take on more assignments than ever before.” She went on to imply the plan will have a long-term effect when she said, “My colleagues are more respectful of my time and schedule.”

Cathy’s positive experience with eliminating distractions and ramping up productivity is one that I’m witnessing more and more often in today’s business setting. At DRIVEN, it’s our mission to take lessons learned from past client successes and transform them into positive results for other top firms with unique needs. If you think our solutions can work for your company, take a shot by learning more about our Private Client Services today!