Boosting Productivity by Avoiding Interruptions

“Suppose each time you ran low on an item in your kitchen—olive oil, bananas, napkins—your instinctive response was to drop everything and race to the store. How much time would you lose? How much money would you squander on gas? What would happen to your productivity?”

That’s the hypothetical scenario that Ron Friedman, a psychologist and author of The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, introduces in a Harvard Business Review article examining the “cognitive price” of interrupting a task that requires dedicated focus.

“We all recognize the inefficiency of this approach,” writes Friedman. “And yet surprisingly, we often work in ways that are equally wasteful.”

Friedman cites two studies showing the impact that even a brief interruption can have on the ability to return to a task. The first, a University of California-Irvine study, stated that reaching our “initial momentum following an interruption can take, on average, upwards of 20 minutes.” The second was performed at the University of London. Participants in that study were shown to lose as many as 10 IQ points when allowing “work to be interrupted by seemingly benign distractions like emails and text messages.”

Interesting, you may be thinking to yourself. But what does this have to do with adjusters, account managers, and other claims professionals? (Other than the fact that it’s preferable for them, for your customers, and for your business if they make efforts to stay on task during the workday.)

Perhaps the following sounds all too familiar: A member of your staff stops the work she is doing to switch over and run a one-off report for a customer who has just called or emailed. Similar requests then arrive two or three times during the course of the day. Meeting those client requests is, of course, a high priority. However, each disruption comes with a cost in terms of the time it takes to return to the work at hand.

There are, as Friedman points out in his article, some practical steps that can limit the impact of these types of interruptions. Changing the environment, for example, can lead to increased levels of productivity. This can include practices such as regularly silencing your phone, turning off email, or setting aside a designated time for answering incoming requests instead of responding the instant that they arrive.

Yet good work habits do not reduce the overall number of repetitive, administrative tasks. The reality, according to an Accenture study that drew from 15 years of research compiled across more than 70,000 claims, is that “claims professionals still spend nearly half their day on activities that do not impact the outcome of the claim.”

Providing a way for clients to retrieve information on their own can eliminate many of these interruptions. A recent post, Gaining a competitive edge with client facing technology, highlights the effectiveness of offering customers direct access to data and on-demand reports. This allows for “automating data-driven alerts, notifications, dashboards, and report production [that] pushes the right data into the right hands at the right time.” Each time a customer is able to find the information they need on their own is one less interruption to deal with.

Beyond helping you gain a competitive advantage in winning and retaining customers, client-facing technology also has the potential to impact the day-to-day productivity of your business, freeing up time to focus on the quality of claims services, improving claim outcomes, and maximizing resources.

Origami Risk can help. In addition to full claims adjusting functionality for the end–to–end handling of claims for all commercial lines of insurance, we provide an array of award-winning solutions designed to streamline internal operations, improve service, and offer added value to your clients.

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