"Quiet time" at work

Posted by Patrice Neff Sat, 20 Oct 2007

Intel is doing a quiet time pilot with about 300 people. In that pilot they disconnect for Tuesday morning. No mails, no IM, no phones, no person allowed to walk in to the office. The pilot has launched end of August, but I only learned of it today through another story on the same blog: No Email Day (via NZZ). On Friday they now encourage not using email but instead talk directly face-to-face or use the phone.

I like the idea of quiet times a lot. In fact at local.ch we’re implementing something similar since a few weeks. Every morning from 10:00 to 12:30 no interrupts are allowed – at all. There is the exception of Thursday which is our meeting day because most of our partners are around on that day. But for the other days it means that you can’t walk in to co-workers during that time, our Skype clients are switched to “Do not disturb” and many people shut off their mail clients. Skype is by the way quiet intelligent about it’s “Do not disturb” mode – any message that comes in gets queued. While you can access them if you need to, they are not pushed into your face.

The times are not arbitrary. Most of us come to the office at 9 in the morning. Beginning the quiet time makes sure that everybody can start gathering the required notes and feedbacks needed for the morning work. Then when people switch into quiet mode at 10, they hopefully have all they need to get their work done. The end is defined by our lunch break which usually starts at about 12:30.

The other idea Intel is implementing doesn’t sound very interesting to me, though. While the concept of “no email” sounds good their motivation stucks me as strange. Walking in on people or using the phone steals a lot more of the attention then sending a mail. You can turn off your mail client or switch off the alerts. And actually I’m doing that. I check my mail only about every second day. The rest of the time my mail client is turned off.