November 2013 by Julian Rothkamp

Increase your Productivity with 'Offline Hours'

As a distributed team with two offices we rely on communication tools probably more than others. Besides email we mainly use Campfire as a team chat and Skype for video calls.
However, this constant availability resulted in way too many distractions each day. If you had a question or problem, you could just jump online. Unlike when sharing an office, you wouldn't know if your colleague was busy or taking a break.

These frequent interruptions are a serious problem and cause stress. You could try to be more disciplined about it. It won't work. Sometimes, you can't resist to share things right away or ask a question. Chances are that you're going to interrupt your colleague this way.


"A Programmer is Likely to Get Just One Uninterrupted 2-Hour Session in a Day"



After getting feedback from our colleagues and reading yet another "study" about the time it takes developers to resume work after an interruption, we wanted to break these bad habits. We introduced "offline hours".

Offline hours

Mornings are for quiet, uninterrupted, and focused work. No emails, no chat, no calls until lunch break. We even moved our daily scrum meeting. We decided on the morning for offline hours as most of the team felt to be more productive before lunch. It simply depends on which time of day fits best for you. We now use the afternoons for meetings and calls.

Every now and then we tend to fall back to old habits. It needs practice and commitment from everyone. But so far we're really happy with the outcome of this simple change: reduced stress and increased productivity for all of us.

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