In Work Life

by Guest Author Nancy Howard

Because of the coronavirus, many employers are thinking about switching to virtual and hybrid work even after most people are vaccinated.

As more people work from home on a long-term basis, we need to start to provide employees with support for how to balance work with common interruptions and distractions.

grayscale photo of woman doing silent hand sign

What Are Quiet Hours?

“Quiet Hours” refers to a work format in which an employee is not distracted for some time by their surroundings and messengers. Here is a shortlist of activities to avoid during this time:

  • Communicating with acquaintances, friends, and family members on messengers
  • Viewing news and reading entertaining articles
  • Selecting products from online stores
  • Talking on forums
  • Viewing notifications
  • Distractions from household chores while working remotely

All of these activities distract employees when working in the office or at home. Constant distractions make it difficult to concentrate on tasks. Because of this, task completion time increases, deadlines are disrupted, and the quality of work deteriorates.

These problems are relevant in any field of activity. IT developers, marketers, web designers, financiers, project managers, and other specialists can be distracted by notifications and extraneous noise while working.

Why Should We Encourage Quiet Hours?

More and more often, employers are practicing so-called quiet hours. This period lasts for around a few hours during the workday. During the quiet at work time slot, the employee is not distracted by notifications and dedicates the time solely to their work. The main goal is to increase productivity by helping employees to concentrate on the task at hand.

There have been many studies and tests that confirm the effectiveness of quiet hours. For example, similar studies were recently conducted at the University of Michigan. The results showed that the distraction rate for some remote employees is up to 74%. That’s by how much productivity is reduced.

The introduction of being quiet at work (in office or at home) contributes to the following improvements:

  • Stress levels due to excessive multitasking are reduced;
  • More free time during breaks due to increased productivity hours;
  • Thinking improves, which facilitates the generation of new creative ideas.

How to Facilitate Quiet Hours

The adherence to the etiquette of remote work can be voluntary or forced. Many employees try to organize their own work without distractions. But they do not always succeed.

The main thing is not to try to blackmail or order employees to follow through on the quiet hours. You need to motivate and persuade them that a few hours a day without distractions will help improve results and possibly get a bonus.

Many managers and executives wonder how to set up quiet hours properly. For employees working remotely, you can use special software that blocks any notifications on the work computer at specified times, and also blocks access to personal email, social media pages, and third-party applications. Such utilities can be used for both computers and mobile devices. Many companies use corporate VPNs to which remote employees’ work computers are connected. This allows you to block distracting content (e.g., YouTube, messengers, news sites, and the like).

An alternative to the use of special applications can be a corporate manifest. It can state, for example, that from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.and from 04:00 to 05:00 p.m., all remote and office employees should adhere to quiet work.

Remember to follow these guidelines when implementing quiet hours for remote and office employees:

  • Don’t try to force employees to adhere to quiet hours;
  • Motivate them to do so and discuss with your team the benefits of such a decision;
  • Share the positive results of implementing quiet hours;
  • Allow exceptions where necessary.

A recent study by SearchInform showed the most distracting activities available without leaving the desk:

  • Social networking – 20%;
  • Reading the news – 17%;
  • Online shopping – 15%;
  • Sports and betting – 11%;
  • Gaming – 9%;
  • Searching for tours – 6%;
  • Using Zoom – 4%;
  • Entertainment resources – 5%;
  • Auto and real estate sales, studying and reading books, watching videos on YouTube – 2% each.

Each employee spends 1 to 3 hours a day on distractions. If we take the standard 8 hours as a basis, it turns out that on average a quarter of working time is spent on non-professional tasks.

Two hours a day to rid an employee of distractions is enough to increase their efficiency by at least 10-20%. Under such conditions, some companies can reduce the duration of the working day by 1 hour.

Conclusion

In any company with a remote or office format of work, it is recommended to implement quiet hours (1-3 hours a day). This allows you to solve all current tasks more quickly and efficiently and avoid the accumulation of problems in business processes. Decide for yourself which method of managing remote business suits you best. This can be special programs or a simple manifesto with requests for employees to shut down their messengers for a few hours a day and avoid distractions by extraneous activities.

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