My firm de facto mandates that all of us keep our IM running on our machines all day. Even if they didn't, it's very ingrained in to the culture. Oddly most of our higher ups don't really have IM running--which I think says something about how they view IM but perhaps I'm wrong.

I've done everything I can to silence notifications from the IM (it's Microsoft Teams if that matters) but I'd really rather just shut it off most of the time so I can focus on work without the distraction. I silenced most of the notifications from Outlook for the same reason.

Any ideas on how to broach the subject with my teammates? I mean do I say "Hey I'm shutting off my IM because I find it distracting?" or is there another approach I might take.

By the way I did search for questions on this topic and didn't find anything promising but if others know of other questions along these lines, please point them out to me.

  • 3
    What is it about it that you find distracting, specifically? Just saying "I know that this is effectively a company mandate, but I'm not going to do it" generally wont' fly too well. Having better details on the situation might help us come up with better options for you. Similarly, si it harming your productivity? How and to what degree?
    – Ben Barden
    Jan 14 '21 at 15:48
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    "shut it off most of the time so I can focus on work" From your description it seems that keeping swift communications is core part of your job, or am I reading it wrong? Jan 14 '21 at 15:52
  • @TymoteuszPaul no I don't think it's so much keeping swift communications as it is the fact that currently we're all working from home. I think whenever the pandemic passes shutting off the IM won't be so consequential. Jan 14 '21 at 15:55
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    As far as I know, setting your availability in Teams to Do Not Disturb will silence all notifications, isn't that enough?
    – Berend
    Jan 14 '21 at 16:24
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    Do they mandate that you are expected to be available to answer messages all day, or just that you have it running all day? If it's just to have it running, then simply minimise them both, mute notifications. and only check in every couple of hours. No need to tell people, they'll quickly notice how fast you do/don't tend to get to your messages.
    – Kaz
    Jan 14 '21 at 16:54

How To Deal With Mandatory IM In Terms Of Distractions?

This is something I deal with every day now, thanks to COVID and having to work remote. Its a pain, email and IM both detract from my ability to build software due to context switching.

Then only thing I have found that works is to ignore IM and email for most of the day. My full strategy is: I check IM and emails at the beginning of the day, after lunch, and before I sign off for the day.

Also, and this is important, the key people who need to reach me ( my manager, product owner, VP of IT ) have my cell number and know to call me if our world is on fire and my help is needed.

In other words management has bought into my strategy too. Once management bought in, I communicated this to those I work with on a day to day basis.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Jan 15 '21 at 16:25

One team I worked on decided to leave time after our daily meeting where people could ask others to stay and discuss any topic they needed input on. Because the request was made in front of the group, others with an interest in that topic could also join the discussion. Because the time was blocked on our calendars, these discussions were never an interruption.

We also supported scheduled “do not disturb” time that could be blocked on a calendar and everyone understood that there were no “drive by” questions or meetings allowed during that time unless something was on fire.

The key to managing interruptions in my opinion is not to block conversations with your coworkers, but to schedule them so they aren’t interrupting you when you’re working on something that shouldn’t be interrupted.

Professors have “office hours” so their entire day isn’t a stream of students looking for help; there’s no reason developers can’t do the same thing, so long as the team agrees on when “office hours” should be.

If you can’t get the team to see the advantages of scheduling office hours, you can still let people know that if you’re marked as “busy” on your calendar, you don’t check email/IM so they have to call you if something is urgent. It’s unreasonable to ignore attempts to communicate from your team without managing their expectations.

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    It’s unreasonable to ignore attempts to communicate from your team without managing their expectations. -- this is key.
    – Neo
    Jan 14 '21 at 19:01

I love Pomodoro and I faced the same issue.

I resolved it by:

  1. closing the MS Team desktop;
  2. opening MS Team in a browser windows that I do not use while working on my focused task;
  3. when my Pomodoro timer ended, I check back the browser windows for new messages.

I was also on a project where people used Slack and the same strategy work well.


I never communicated this to my coworkers, but I turned off all notifications except @ notifications and direct chats. I don't know if that would work everywhere, but for me that limits my interruptions to once or twice per day, and almost always for reasons I'm happy to be interrupted for.

Aside from that, I check when it's convenient for me, usually when I'm already interrupted or waiting on something. For example if I'm interrupted by a direct chat, I will also check team rooms and email and GitHub. No one has complained yet.

  • Having no-one notice whether you’re engaged with the team or not is a good way to be passed over when there is a opportunity to advance your career. I know most developers are addicted to being “in the zone”, but being available to help your team and being seen contributing is more important than you might think. If people stop direct messaging you, are you never going to check the team channels again?
    – ColleenV
    Jan 14 '21 at 21:30
  • Being engaged with the team doesn't require constant interruptions. In practice, there are several opportunities throughout the day. I'm talking about going a half hour without checking chat, not an afternoon. Consolidating communication, not avoiding it altogether. Jan 14 '21 at 22:04

Any ideas on how to broach the subject with my teammates?

Actions speak louder than words. If you want to turn off all notifications and ignore all IMs and emails then do it. When your coworkers realize that you never respond to anything that they send you, they will either find another way to attempt to communicate with you or reach out to their manager to escalate.

Just make sure that you are prepared to answer questions from your manager as to why you have notifications turned off or why you are ignoring communications. Depending on your company's culture and what is expected of you as an employee at your company, an answer of "it's a distraction" may not be a good one and could cost you your employment.


It's absolutely reasonable for you to want periods where you can concentrate on complex tasks. It's also reasonable for your team to expect you to be available to discuss issues with them at some point in the day. I'd recommend you aim to compromise, protecting some time for focussed development but also allowing some time for questions.

Use the status in Teams to show when you can be disturbed (Available) and when you're focusing and would like peace (Do Not Disturb / Busy). Then mail your team explaining that you'll be doing this. If there are standard times you'd expect to be available for questions each day, mention this too.

Some of the team will try to respect this immediately. Others will forget or just not care and will continue to ask questions whenever suits them best. You could just ignore these questions until your next 'available' period but that risks them messaging you again and again with reminders. You'd be more effective at encouraging a change in their behaviour (and at remaining on good terms with them) if you reply promptly, explaining that you're busy but will get back to them at [insert time you next plan to be available].


Don't broach it at all.

Jusy start doing it and if anyone brings it up explain there's no guarantee you'll see a particular IM in a definite timeframe, and if they need to contact you they should ring you (on your phone, or more likely via Teams itself).

I also use Teams in my job, and I have everything muted except calls. It doesn't stop me from checking in if I want to, it just makes sure I don't get distracted unless I've decided it's a convenient point for it.

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