They say time is like a suitcase we pack our activities into. Now, that poses a problem. What if others pack their things into your suitcase, leaving you with less room to carry your own stuff? If you’re in the HR department, you’ll know how true this can be. Sometimes, you can’t even control your own schedule! Take a look at how Fred is handling his own hectic schedule.

Fred Can’t Get Work Done

It’s been another hectic day for Fred. He is a onboarding supervisor for the HR department of a BPO. On paper, his main job is to oversee and verify the work of his team. They, in turn, help new hires have a smooth transition to their pre-deployment trainings. He makes sure that all requirements are filed and all papers were answered correctly by the applicants.
Being the supervisor, Fred also serves as the point-of-contact to other departments. On random days, he gets a phone call from payroll to verify whether a certain employee gets a signing bonus or not. He has to drop whatever he’s doing to look those up for them.

On other days, the people from the training department ask for his help. They often ask about the requirements for the next orientation seminar. He regularly needs to touch base with his bosses in the HR team as well, to let them know of updates. But sometimes he has to delay that to deal with pressing new-hire concerns his team can’t handle.

If he misses any task due to these things, it rolls over to the next day’s work. This makes his work life a flurry of chasing deadlines and answering phone calls.

One time, he was working overtime to finish an important quarterly report. That was when the guys from payroll dropped by. There’s been another new-hire dispute. Fred needs to leaf through new-hire attendance records for them. That will take about 15 minutes at best, and that’s about all he has before his superiors demand an update. Fred’s getting tired, stressed out, and frustrated over not getting anything done.

How HR Work Is Disrupted By Interruptions

People like Fred often have a harried time. HR personnel deal with the most difficult variables in the company: the people themselves. Sadly, people problems are not just data that can be sorted and calculated with ease. This is why HR people are in a perennial problem-solving process. They are working on things like manpower, schedules, payroll, logistics, and others. Despite (or maybe because of) this, they are also prone to a myriad of interruptions. These are not different from those Fred experiences on a daily basis.

Research shows that interruptions can have a harmful effect in one’s work flow — whether it’s part of the job or not. This is especially true if the work requires deep thinking. When a person is disrupted in the middle of looking for a solution, the person’s train of thought is derailed. It will be difficult for him to return to the task at hand afterwards, especially if the problem is complex. This leads to potential errors that may end up disrupting the business.

Another thing to consider is the fact that HR personnel are often “on-call”. They have to respond to different concerns as they happen on top of their assigned tasks. Due to this, they cannot “schedule” interruptions. Or more accurately, they cannot schedule a time when interruptions cannot reach them. They need to respond to pressing matters even in the midst of important tasks. One study showed that untimed disruptions can even be more detrimental to their work.

Add to this the fact that interruptions are not only caused by human factors. Software problems, equipment breakdowns, and the like can also waste time and interrupt work. Despite modernization, companies may still be unprepared for these factors. Furthermore, most are not aware of their true costs to the business.

How Do You Manage Interruptions?

Most people have their own way of dealing with interruptions. Here are a few effective ways to lower their impact on your work flow.

  1. Expect Interruptions. First on the list is to plan for them. Recognize that they will happen, and make sure you know how to respond in the right way when they do. By doing so, you can work on schedule despite interruptions, making you more organized with your time.

But how exactly do you plan for interruptions? You can use an “Interrupters Log” to gather data. This is simply a list of who interrupted you, and when. You should also fill in the details of the interruption, and whether it is valid and/or urgent. By doing this, you will get a better grasp of the people who are interrupting you for different matters.

  1. Sort Your Interruptions. Often, we receive requests that others deem “urgent”. But upon a closer look, those requests really aren’t that important that they need your personal attention. So learn the different disruptions that come your way. Then, get help from those who can do those tasks better than you.

    For example, you find out that the training heads often ask for the head count for their next orientation. You can then have somebody on hand to send the information over to them without doing it yourself. This is typically someone who has knowledge of new-hire head counts.

  1. Pre-empt Interruptions. Another strategy you can use is to be proactive in giving others information. If they make regular requests, just send them the data before they interrupt your work flow.
  1. “Block” Interruptions. Try to get others to contact you using the phone, instead of in person. Then, let them know that your phone goes straight to voicemail. This is so they don’t have to waste time waiting for you to pick up. You can then chunk up these interruptions and deal with them at your own time. You can check them out every hour or so. This gives you more control of when you will allow interruptions.

    At the same time, this also allows you to deal with more urgent concerns without too much delay. If you lead a team, you can also use a gatekeeper to answer the phone for you. This ensures that only the most important work gets to you. Let other take care of the more mundane tasks.

Fred Strikes Back Against Disruptions

Fred noticed that most of the interruptions that come his way are about a few basic things. They come at random times, but most of them fall into a few broad categories. Fred decided that it was time to strike back against disruptions.

He organized his team so that each person can answer specific questions related to their tasks. One dealing with attendance records served as his point-of-contact to the accounting team. Another dealing with new-hire records dealt with headcount inquiries. As for the rest of the questions, he set his phone on voicemail. Fred told his team to interrupt him only for absolute emergencies. For other tasks, he specified a set of procedures his team can follow.

Needless to say, Fred got his time back — his job was not a lot easier, and he got room to be more productive.

How about you — how do you safeguard your time from the ever-present disruptions? You can try out the techniques outlined here, but you should not be afraid to be creative. Different job descriptions have different problems — and different opportunities.

Be observant, and enlist the help of others when necessary.

It can save you your time and your sanity.


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