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At Ignite XDS, we hold an open-space mentality about work – both in culture and physical space. While we all have our own desk areas filled to the brim with our own knick-knacks, we share an open office space. If you could cut the roof off our office and look down on us working throughout a "regular" day, you'd see us buzzing around, cruising through our various Lab areas [by foot or scooter], and stopping to chat with team members about work, a current project, or whatever else is consuming our busy minds. This happens all day long.
It sounds so nice.
We might Slack our target that we're headed over to review something that we're working on. Or, more likely, we'll just get up and go, without second thought, to unintentionally interrupt someone else's work.
Where are we going with this story?
Not long ago, one of our Dev team members shared a "should-have-known" shocking statistic included in an article about productivity by Fast Company, stating that after being interrupted, it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds for your mind to re-focus and get back to the task you were working on. That's an incredibly significant and valuable amount of time, especially when you consider interruptions occur multiple times throughout the day. Additionally, the article points out that these interruptions, and awareness that you're likely to be interrupted, create stress and push employees to work faster, not smarter.
To these points, through reviews with our team, it was revealed how big of a problem interruptions really were, and how we were all craving a solution to improve productivity as both individuals and as a team. Little did we realize that while we were proud of our team communication, our eagerness was actually harming our productivity.
Of course we were committed to maintaining our open-space mentality and did not want to discourage teams from working together, but the numerous interruptions had to go. That's when the light bulb went off – literally. What if we implemented a solution – a physically visible notification – that would allow us to communicate to each other when we would prefer to not be interrupted so that we could be our most productive self? A "come back later" light, if you will. This is when the idea to use push lights was born.
So what'd we do?
We purchased a bunch of small, battery-operated, LED, push lights. Yes, exactly like those ones you can get from IKEA. Then we all stuck 'em to our desks, our computers, our doors, or wherever they're best visible – Just turn your light on when you're in the zone! Almost immediately, we began respecting the lights by continuing on our way if a team member's light is illuminated. The result? Minimized interruptions, increased productivity, and a whole lot of respect for each other's time. Turning on our lights has now become associated with focus; an automatic mental switch that has made us more self-aware in the process.
For us, to be more productive, we keep the light on.