For the last 28 years the Grindstone Institute has been performing studies on office busyness, and have today released their findings. The paper, which most people will themselves be too busy to read, reveals that finding out if someone is too busy to be interrupted is the leading cause of workplace interruptions.
‘It’s all very quantum’ said Dr. Charles Higgs-Boson, Lead Boffin on the project. ‘Basically, it’s impossible to observe the state of someone’s busyness without disturbing that busyness. Interrupting someone with the question “Can I interrupt?” will at best result in a withering response of “Apparently” and at worst lead to filling in a workplace incident form.’
If you must speak with someone but suspect they might be too busy, try sending an email. Emails are the most unobtrusive form of office communication. Email servers can be slightly unreliable though, so after sending it also go up to the person, let them know you sent them an email, and give them a quick rundown of the content.
If you prefer, call the person, let the phone ring once and then hang up. If they are busy they can choose to ignore it, and if they are not they can use the caller ID feature to ring you back. Do this every five minutes until you hear from them.
Sometimes you need to actually speak to someone face to face. Rather than talking to the person in question, however, approach their neighbour. Ask your questions clearly and loudly. If you can use words that sound remarkably like the name of the potentially busy person then all the better.
‘But be careful of the Busyness Feedback Loop®,’ warns Dr. Higgs-Boson. ‘Too often we see people spending so much time determining the best ways to interrupt others that they themselves become so busy they can no longer be approached.’