It's Friday afternoon, which means you're powering through your to-do list at record speed in hopes of packing up and starting your weekend an hour early.
Until Sheryl from Sales stops by for a chat about weekend plans … followed by a co-worker who wants to discuss a project for next week. And just like that you've gone from calling it quits early to putting in overtime.
It may not seem like a few short interruptions throughout the day have that big of an impact on your workflow, but they add up to some pretty surprising effects on our productivity.
Research conducted at the University of California at Irvine found that on average, office workers are interrupted or switch tasks every three minutes and five seconds. And when they're interrupted — whether it's by a phone call, email or a visitor to their cubicle — it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task.
And you're not alone when it comes to dodging chatty co-workers. A 2011 study published in the journal Organization Studies found that face-to-face interruptions account for one-third more intrusions than email or phone calls. Which is why a computer scientist from the University of British Columbia (UBC) invented the FlowLight; a desk light that alerts your colleagues when you are "in the zone" and should not be disturbed.
"When you're interrupted, it can take a long time to get back into your work and it's more likely you'll make mistakes," said Thomas Fritz, an assistant professor at UBC who started work on the invention at the University of Zurich. "The light is like displaying your Skype status — it tells your colleagues whether you're busy or open for a chat."
Initially, the light switched between green and red based on keyboard and mouse activity, but researchers also tested a more advanced version that uses biometric sensors to detect heart rate variability, pupil dilation, eye blinks or even brainwave activity.