Excuse me, can I interrupt you and boost your wellbeing?

Our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at why interruptions at work can be beneficial, how the whitest paint can cool buildings, and which firms topped Fortune magazine’s list of best places to work

Here’s yet more proof that the world of work has been turned on its head in 2021. Conventional wisdom has it that being constantly interrupted at work is unhelpful to productivity and resented by employees. Staff surveys globally have long reinforced the idea that constant distraction and noise are the main reason why people complain about their work environment and why open plan space can be unpopular.

But new research by a trio of academics in three US universities, entitled ‘Excuse Me, Do You Have a Minute?’, challenges this thinking by casting a different light on what it calls the ‘bright side’ of office interruptions. The paper by Harshad Puranik, Joel Koopman, and Heather Vough, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, argues that constantly being interrupted by colleagues could actually be beneficial for employee wellbeing.

Such workplace intrusions are human interactions which involve a social aspect, suggest the researchers, which based their findings on a three-week sampling study with more than 100 participants. Interruptions, they assert, can support a sense of belonging at work and boost satisfaction in the workplace rather than damage it.

The researchers conclude: ‘We challenge the consensus that work intrusions harm job satisfaction by explaining why and when intrusions may also boost job satisfaction.’

So, those irritating interruptions in the office might not be so harmful after all. The only trouble in the current climate of infrequent and unpredictable attendance in the workplace is finding a colleague to interrupt you.

You can read about this study and others in our regular scientific research round-up in the Innovation Zone.

Whiter than white

Offices have been painted shades of white for decades in what is called the ‘vanilla solution’ because people rarely complain about things being white, whereas they often have strong and conflicting views on the use of different primary colours.  Now comes news of a new paint that is billed as the whitest white of all – so white, in fact, that it reflects 98 per cent of light and deflects infra-red heat.

The invention could have a significant impact on cooling buildings and fighting climate change. Researchers at Purdue University, Indiana, spent six years developing the new wonder-white material. It outperforms commercially available white paints because these only reflect 80 to 90 per cent of light according to lead researcher Xiulin Ruan. The new paint does so because it has a high concentration of a chemical compound called barium sulphate, which is used to make photo paper and cosmetics. Tests showed that covering roofs in the paint can reduce surface temperatures of buildings by 4.5°C below the ambient temperature. Now that is cool.

Fortune favours the friendly

Employee priorities might have changed in the pandemic but some familiar organisations still managed to top Fortune magazine’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2021. Cisco was named best employer, closely followed by Salesforce in second place and Hilton in third. Capital One Financial and American Express squeezed into the top ten. Companies must have at least 1,000 US employees to be eligible for the list.

The Fortune survey was conducted by people analytics firm Great Place to Work. More than half-a-million employees were polled on issues including how trustworthy, caring and fair the organisation is in times of crises; employees’ physical, emotional, and financial health; and the company’s broader community impact.

The key message from the survey appears clear: businesses that treat their people well in the toughest of times will be first in line for the premium talent when the labour market hots up again.

Wellbeing virtual briefing

Finally, to learn more about what companies around the world are doing to monitor and improve wellbeing, don’t forget to register for WORKTECH Wellbeing virtual conference, which takes places on Wednesday 26 May and Thursday 27 May. This event will address the current challenges and opportunities around physical, mental and financial wellbeing. Find out more about the event here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our virtual platforms. This edition is posted 28 April 2021.
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