Managing Distractions in the Medical Office

May 31, 2014

Knowing how to manage workplace distractions will help keep you on task and on time.

When I work out of the clinic office I find myself far more exhausted, by the end of the day, than had I stayed in my home office and worked. I decided to look into the "whys" of this mystery - did I ever make a list!

I have been reading articles on workplace distractions and found several statistics about how much loss a company can incur from these distractions. Then, I started walking around my office and observing staff members. Here's what I've found from my experiences:

• Loud voices are distracting. Whether staff are on the phone, chatting with a neighbor, or hovering around your desk in an impromptu meeting, loud voices are distracting. If you find yourself in a situation where someone is being too loud, ask them politely to step into the conference room, or try lowering their voice on the phone.

• Too many meetings are wasteful. Many people find that they are involved in far too many meetings. Identify why you have the meetings, if they are necessary, and if they can be combined together. Oftentimes employees feel that they are heavily tasked in meetings, and have little to no time to implement changes and updates outside of those meetings.

• Interruptions burn up time. The average manager is interrupted every eight minutes. If you're a manager, you know the feeling of trying to accomplish something and constantly having to put out fires or step in to assist a colleague. Compartmentalizing your time is your only hope. Schedule time for phone calls, e-mails, meetings, etc. Honestly, if the phone rings, don't answer it, if it's not in the time frame you have designated. Call the person back during your allotted time. Same goes with e-mail. I shut my e-mail down three times per day. No e-mail gets answered during that time. Very few situations can be so critical that they need an immediate response.

• E-mail is depersonalizing. Employees often feel it's easier to e-mail or instant message a colleague sitting right next to them, to keep their workflow moving. This is taking the personal out of communication, but in most instances, I agree with this. If there is a misunderstanding, or frustration when using these mediums to deliver information, then by all means a face-to-face conversation is in order.

• Asking for answers is lazy. In my position, I am a plethora of information. It's my fault that everyone comes to me for answers, since I seem to have them, and give them freely. It's easier and quicker for staff to ask me, than to figure it out for themselves. I've really had to learn how to guide them to the answers so that they do learn, and cut back on my interruptions. Sometimes, it's just easier to do it myself, but then what are they learning? To come back and interrupt me again. For you own peace of mind, start teaching your staff how to find the answers they seek, so that you can get more than eight minutes of work done at a time.