Just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you’re getting work done. The eight-hour workday is under assault, with technology dinging and popping everywhere. Widely quoted time-management studies say your employees are interrupted on average 56 times a day, which a new local startup contends wreaks havoc with their productivity.
Dave Vernon and J. Wynia divided that number by eight hours, and named their business 7 Interruptions. Rooted in a combined 40 years of software experience at Andersen Consulting, Analysts International and their own companies, frustration with workflow organization was their inspiration. “Our job is to give that time back,” Vernon says.
Multitasking workers switch between different tasks too quickly and frequently for our brains to fully re-engage, costing as much as 23 minutes of productivity for each activity swap, according to a University of California study. A study at Carnegie Mellon University tested students’ cognitive abilities while being interrupted by a text message during an exam. The interrupted group received a score that was 20 percent lower than the students whose brains stayed focused on one task.
For each client, 7 Interruptions generates customized software that makes work more visible, by creating a digital home to find assignments in priority order, check status on projects, manage workflow schedules and block out interruptions. The company’s $5,000 fee promises a six- to nine-month return on investment, calculating time saved relative to salaries. 7 Interruptions has just four employees, so Wynia and Vernon do the majority of the programming.
The tools they employ are rooted in seven principles: working mindfully, working on one thing at a time, making work visible, turning off notifications, making meetings and collaboration count, practicing, teaching, coaching, plus tracking and measuring.
Refrigeration vendor Nor-Lake Inc. is sold. Vice president of operations Randy Clay and production control manager Ron Hamble speak highly of their partnership with 7 Interruptions. “They were able to create and continue to maintain a program that enables us to automatically schedule approximately 80 percent of our business,” says Hamble. “We have been able to eliminate 30 to 40 emails a day between sales and production control.” Clay adds that customers receive shipments nearly twice as fast because of the increased productivity.
“It’s a true partnership,” says Clay. “They will tell us if an idea is practical early in the process. They didn’t simply do what we asked, they continually asked questions that challenged and improved our processes.”