People who practice "open door" policies and especially those who work in low sided cubicles are susceptible to people dropping by just to say hello or to ask for help in what they are doing.
I found that with an "open door" policy I was being interrupted constantly. In order to be able to focus on my deadlines it became necessary to set certain hours for my work and certain hours for availability. It took about a week for people to get used to the timing, but it worked very effectively after that. There was no rude sign that said, "Not now." Just an announcement sent out about the " open door hours" and when I would examine emails.
It is more difficult for people in cubicles. Passers by may make a comment. Loud conversation my "echo" among the cubicles. Once, after fielding a number of complaints, it was decided to hold a contest to see how people could be signaled not to interrupt. Also, a team was formed to address the indirect focus disturbing interruptions.
The contest had two possible winners. The first successful entry was a cubicle surrounded by police tape. It was figured that this would also deter disruptive supervisors. Since all entries had to be tested, this probed hard to use though clear enough. The second was a simple sign post that stated "focus time" and the back, "Hi." The individual simply turned it front or back. She said that her focus improved just knowing that whatever time she turned the sign around was hers. This was the hands down winner, and it worked! She also sent out a note with the hours including when she would check her email. People became used to it. A supervisor that interrupts is tougher, but most will adapt to a productive team member.
The committee dealing with interruptions came up with a similar solution. The first was to make people aware that they were interrupting by sending out a note reminding people of the vulnerability of cubicles. One would think that would be understood, but friendly, highly social people can forget. They also put out a note protecting certain hours. This helped overall productivity, but it also set a standard for quieter communication. It probably helped that this came from a committee of their peers.
Although much can be handled by gracious personal initiative, a.k.a., talk to people, potential conflict was avoided by gaining by-in to the group decision without singling anyone out.
Some people choose to live with the environment afraid to be seen as the neighborhood grouch. Chances are good if one person is having a problem, there are other people sharing the experience.A nonthreatening approach is usually best, but there are times when a more direct approach may be necessary. Supervisors should be aware of the work environment..
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