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The disturbing secret of ‘Do not disturb’ signs

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On average, a person gets interrupted every three minutes when working in an office. However this can be minimised, writes NORA INVEISS, as is evident in a recent social experiment conducted by MapOn.

Did you know that the average person gets interrupted every 3 minutes at work? From coworkers that want to chat, to incoming emails, to Facebook notifications, there’s no shortage of distractions in today’s workplace.

Working in an open office space can be especially distracting, as there’s nothing separating you from everybody else. And we at GreyNut can attest to that. Our open office plan allows for plenty of collaboration and communication, but we’ve all longed for some peace and quiet at some point.

The good news is that there are plenty of tools that can minimize interruptions. Our sister company, MapOn, decided to experiment with 3 of them: headphones, a Luxafor device, and a paper “do not disturb” sign. Here are the rules of the experiment:

  • 3 programmers (who are busy and prone to interruptions) participated. They were each given one tool to try out.
  • The programmers had one month to test the effectiveness of their assigned “do not disturb” indicator and report their findings.
  • 20% of their day needed to be kept open for communication and impromptu discussions.

Which method works best? And if you’re wondering how to minimize interruptions at your workplace, what would work for you?

0-10 days into the experiment

So far, so good for every method. The experiment is fresh and everybody in the office respects every “do not disturb” indicator. There was even a poster put up about what each Luxafor light means.

The test subjects (programmers) are happy and they report that interruptions have gone down by 75%.

11-20 days into the experiment

Disruptions are slowly increasing all around. About 10% of staff completely ignore each “do not disturb” indicator either because of an urgent need, or they simply don’t care. Everyone else continues to comply.

The programmer with the paper sign finds that it’s easy to forget setting up the sign in the morning. And he doesn’t always notice when it falls down.

The Luxafor poster is helpful in reminding people to not interrupt when the light is flashing red. There are people that interrupt anyway, but many hold off and remember that the light will turn green later. Since the Luxafor is automated, the programmer doesn’t forget to change from red or green depending on availability.

Headphones are the most effective so far, as everybody can see that the programmer wearing them doesn’t want to be interrupted. With music playing, he also doesn’t hear distractions going on around him. The only downsides are that the programmer is more isolated from the rest of the group, and he sometimes forgets to put headphones back on after taking them off.

20-30 days into the experiment

The “do not disturb” sign is now pretty much ignored by everybody. It gets dropped on the ground, forgotten about by the programmer, and ignored by everyone else.

The Luxafor and headphones continue to perform the same – interruptions are lower and both methods are easy to use. Since the experiment started, interruptions have gone down by 72%.

Which method works for you?

If you’re looking for ways to focus and avoid interruptions at work, each of the methods we tested has its pros and cons.

A paper sign is free and so long as people remember to actually use it and respect it, it’ll get the job done. The downside is that it’s easy to forget about, and people might not take it seriously.

Headphones are very effective. You can block out noise and coworkers won’t want to bother you when you have them on. The downsides are that a good pair is expensive, being cut off from the rest of the office feels isolating, and it’s easy to forget putting them back on after taking them off.

Plus, listening to music has different effects depending on the person listening and the task being completed. Some might find that music helps them work productively. Others might find it too distracting.

The Luxafor can be automated, so you won’t forget about setting it up. There are, of course, people who will ignore the red light and interrupt you anyway. The Luxafor can adapt to the Pomodoro technique for Mac users, so coworkers know that even if the light is red, they’ll be able to drop by and chat soon enough. One downside is that it still doesn’t block out the noise and potential distractions around you. But hopefully people will know not to chat with you when they know you need to focus (or you can always wear headphones!).

Finally, it depends on your company culture and the type of work you do. Creative professions might require more open communication and collaboration than data-entry work, for example. We also suggest adopting guidelines, and making sure everyone is on the same page about respecting other’s time and focus.

Featured

Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entires via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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