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We all know how distracting emails and messengers are and how they create a sort of compulsion to check them every now and then. This is stealing the employees' attention. They not only spend less time on the actual work to be done, but also waste their energy to concentrate on a single task and are less creative.

Therefore, putting jobs such as support or sales, where communication is inherent part of the job itself, do you think it would be beneficial to invest in an additional computer for each employee (IT in my particular case), designated solely for the purpose of communication?

Let me explain it in detail: the employee has her basic computer for her work and on a different desk nearby, she has another computer to access email, messengers, etc, when needed. Notification sounds would be turned off. This would help by:

(1) no notifications to distract her while working;

(2) no ground for the natural temptation of human mind to check emails and messengers on the principle "out of sight - out of mind";

(3) employees would have to apply more discipline into communication - they would have to stipulate remote conversations with clients and co-workers at specified time instead of just any given time.

Do you think this would work as expected?


UPDATE: I would like to underscore that I am speaking about mentally challenging work, where deep focus and devotion to the task at hand, is of utmost importance. Given that, I would expect excellent performance on the particular tasks assigned to employees and I would not press them with any urgent emails or messages. Top notch work output is my urgency. If there's work communication to be done remotely, it'd be planned in advance, at set hours.

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  • It wouldn't work as expected. 1 - if the work involves answering mails and reading information in them, that "distraction" could be vital information for the tasks at hand 2 - "out of sight, out of mind" if the computer is making a sound, then you just got plenty of distractions there. If not... Well, are you sure you do not want them to read any emails? Because that's the result you are going to get. Either unread email or mail read 5 hours late. 3 - Wait... They are communicating with clients as part of their job?! No. Just no.
    – jo1storm
    Feb 6 '20 at 13:55
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    This question seems largely out of touch with modern reality. And even so, the cost of buying every single employee a SECOND laptop likely completely outweighs the cost of slight distractions from productivity.
    – Kaizerwolf
    Feb 6 '20 at 14:16
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    Your employees aren't giving 100% attention every second they are at work no matter what you do. Even something like a chrome book for 20 employees would be a few thousand dollars.
    – Warcupine
    Feb 6 '20 at 19:20
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    What is the actual problem_ you're trying to solve?
    – tddmonkey
    Feb 7 '20 at 8:09
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    As a web (application) developer, I would like to say that if you tried such things and your my manager, I would quit on the spot. There's just no way I'd see myself working in such a dictatorship. (That's setting aside any possible illegalities - I'm in The Netherlands :) )
    – rkeet
    Feb 7 '20 at 10:27
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Having occasionally had to do development on airgapped computers at a defense company, I'd say no. The hassle from not getting the occasional high priority message as quickly and the round about data transfer methods needed whenever I did need to move (permissible) data from one to the next was far more painful than the lower distraction rate.

Besides which, you could accomplish email distraction avoidance one one PC just as easily by closing your mail client and only opening it once/twice a day to process messages. My expectation is that you'll end up with an increase in more disruptive face to face communications.

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    @RASG: It is different as it mentions some highly relevant experience, Dan has actually experienced the setup proposed by the OP. Your answer covers the same points, but comes across as hypothetical in comparison Feb 6 '20 at 12:36
  • Alas, email distraction avoidance doesn't work that way ("just as easily by closing your mail client and only opening it once/twice a day") since the sensation of seeing a new message creates a mild addiction in the brain and you end up checking it on your own.
    – drabsv
    Feb 6 '20 at 19:45
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how would you address 'urgent' emails?

from personal experience: i focus on my work and sometimes only read my emails at the end of the day.

and then i realize that someone was expecting an answer to continue his work...

also, my boss sometimes comes to my desk and say 'read your emails. i sent you a message 30 minutes ago'.

i think this communication is part of the work. preventing this would be like disconnecting their phones in 1990.

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  • There doesn't seem to be an easy way to tell Outlook to only display the 'new message' icon for messages flagged as important. You could create a rule to display an alert. Feb 6 '20 at 14:46
  • I added an update to my question. I am speaking about a situation where the manager realizes how valuable proper focus of his workers is and does not bombard them with urgent emails every now and then. If an urgency is that urgent, I would either personally approach the needed employee or call him on the phone. Anyway, urgent communication in a well functioning organisation (unless it's the fire brigade or any of that ilk) should be an exception rather than a rule. Daily urgencies are a symptom of incompetent management.
    – drabsv
    Feb 6 '20 at 19:41
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    @RobinBennett and pretty soon all emails will be important
    – HorusKol
    Feb 6 '20 at 22:00
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(1) no notifications to distract here while working;

This makes the assumption that notifications aren't part of "working".

(2) no temptation to check emails and messengers on the principle "out of sight - out of mind";

This sounds like you don't trust your employees!

(3) employees would have to apply more discipline into communication - they would have to stipulate remote conversations with clients and co-workers at specified time instead of just any given time.

What is the problem with conversations being ad-hoc?

It might help if you were to explain, or indeed even figure out, what problem you're trying to solve. Communication is a key part of any IT job but it sounds like you want to cut down on it, or just plain control it.

To answer your question- will it work as expected? Absolutely! But you may very soon realise it's not what you want though.

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  • I added an update to my question. I am speaking about those types of jobs, where deep mental immersion is vital and any notification is quite destructive to it. I also mentioned that the temptation to check for new messages is a natural trait of the human mind and it does not refer to employees in their role of subordinates, that is, nothing to do with mistrusting them. And again, I am speaking about jobs where mental focus is key, not ongoing communication. I want to control it only to the extent that it brings the adverse effect of distraction.
    – drabsv
    Feb 6 '20 at 19:33
  • I've been a software developer for over 2 decades - work that requires "deep focus". If you tried to limit my communications I would quit. If your employees are focussed enough on a task (and you provide the environment for it), distractions won't occur. It might help if you told us what job your employees actually do as I'm sure there will be people here who perform that job
    – tddmonkey
    Feb 7 '20 at 8:03
  • @ tddmonkey - why would you quit? You are expected to do work at work, so what is the issue with your communications? I really cannot get it why so many people here equal work with playing with their mobile. If I provide the right environment for distractions not to occur - well, this is exactly what I am talking about, setting a different computer for communication is exactly restructuring the environment. As far as I can understand, you assume that people do not have a natural inclination to check their messengers every now and then, which is simply not correct.
    – drabsv
    Feb 9 '20 at 14:10
  • @ tddmonkey (2) - the job positions I am talking about are programming, graphic design, UI/ UX design, copywriting, marketing. (Not all are IT, but all are related to the IT sphere.)
    – drabsv
    Feb 9 '20 at 14:11
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    @drabsv I would quit because it seems like you want to treat your workforce like children. Let them check their messages during the day! You seem to be missing my point though - you're suggesting that people checking their messages is wasting time, or personal, where in fact communication is a major part of all the jobs you've listed
    – tddmonkey
    Feb 10 '20 at 9:51

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