Socializing in the workplace is great for many reasons. It boosts friendships among colleagues, improves communication through the office and keeps the day from being boring. However, is it stopping us from being as productive as we could be? When we’re distracted from our work, even for just 30 seconds, it can take time to get back into the flow of things again. To see if this was hampering productivity at our company, we implemented a ‘no talking’ day every week, and this is what happened.
What disrupts productivity
It isn’t just socializing with colleagues that affects how much attention we pay to our work. Other things like meetings and emails can also have an impact on our effectiveness throughout the day, and they aren’t always a necessity. Many meetings simply exist as distractions from work where managers or employees talk about what they’ve done or are going to do. We wouldn’t say they aren’t useful, but they needn’t be as frequent as they actually are.
In a day without talking, things like this are completely removed from the equation. There is no sitting in a conference room losing an hour of your time while you listen to other people talk. There are no emails coming in from colleagues or superiors telling you to do something when you’re already in the process of doing something else. You have eight interrupted hours at work focusing on whatever job you need to do.
Does it work?
While this might have been a glorious proposition, it didn’t work out as much as we’d hoped. Although it did improve productivity among employees – we all managed to get that extra bit done – being cut off from each other for a whole day just didn’t work. Some things crop up that need to be dealt with urgently, or there are phone conversations that need to be had with customers and clients. Eight hours of silence isn’t practical for a company, especially one that’s already established and constantly busy with work.
This doesn’t mean that a routine of silence shouldn’t be included on a weekly basis. Although a whole day is too long to silence communication, a morning or afternoon can still go a long way to improve productivity. Intel has implemented something along these lines with their Tuesday-morning quiet time. They experimented with the silent mornings on two of the US sites across seven months and found that it improved “employee effectiveness, efficiency and quality of life.”
Should everywhere implement this?
Ultimately, whether this will work for your company depends on various factors. The bigger the company, the harder it is for them to shut off from the world for so many hours a week. The Happiness Research Institute adjusted the routine into creative zones, which allow two uninterrupted hours a day for workers to focus on their work.
An alternative to implementing quiet time at work is to allow employees to spend some time working from home. It’s essentially the equivalent of turning the office into a silent space, except people can do their job from the comfort of their sofa. Flexibility in the workplace is becoming increasingly common and the opportunity to spend one day a week working from home could potentially improve productivity among employees. If anyone spends a long time driving to and from the office during the week, they’ll also save themselves some time on those days which could then be applied to their work.
No company would ever make any progress if they didn’t spend enough time promoting communication, but there’s a lot that can be said for a moment of silence every so often. If your company doesn’t have any form of ‘no talking’ initiative, it might be worth bringing it up with your boss. After all, they may be more inclined to reward their employees if they see their productivity levels go up.