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UZH for Staff

Handling Workplace Interruptions

Interruptions at the workplace are inevitable but can impair productivity and endanger health if not managed appropriately. Here are some tips on how to effectively handle interruptions:

1. Task Prioritization
New emails or phone calls don’t always need to be addressed immediately. Consciously delay tasks and reorder them to ensure effective processing.

2. Schedule Work Time
Structure your work time into so-called "work blocks" where you focus on concentrated work without interruptions.

3. Optimize Communication
Discuss with colleagues and superiors when you need to work with high concentration. Communicate when you do not wish to be disturbed for a certain period.

4. Minimize Interruptions
Create an environment that minimizes distractions. Use headphones to reduce noise, and signal to others when you do not want to be disturbed.

5. Prioritize Callbacks
If you have calls or meetings, prioritize them as needed and schedule them at times less critical for your productivity.

6. Control Digital Notifications
Disable unnecessary notifications on your computer and smartphone to minimize distractions from emails, social media, or other apps.

7. Plan Breaks
Consciously schedule breaks to recover and allow social interactions. This can help reduce tension and maintain concentration.

8. Effective Meetings
Keep meetings short and to the point. Share the agenda in advance to foster discussion and avoid unnecessary interruptions.

9. Emergency Protocol
Develop an action plan for urgent situations to ensure that important matters are not overlooked during interruptions.

10. Maintain Flexibility
Be flexible and adjust your working methods to unexpected interruptions. Reprioritize tasks to stay productive.

11. Make Conscious Decisions
In situations of interruption, it is often better not to react immediately. Take time to fully perceive the situation before making a decision.

12. Identify Causes
Investigate the causes of work interruptions. Common reasons include ignorance, lack of agreements, or not clearly communicated times of undisturbed work.

13. Teamwork
Contribute to or initiate the establishment of new behavioral rules in your team to jointly identify and address the sources of interruptions.

14. Efficient Multitasking
Consider the friction losses when constantly switching between tasks. Decide consciously whether an immediate response is sensible or if other options can be utilized (delayed processing, simultaneous processing, task delegation).

15. Active Recreation as Stress Prevention
Sufficient sleep, relaxing activities, and sports activities are a good balance to professional stress and improve mental resilience. You should also engage in activities that are fun for you, yet also pose a challenge.

Further Information

Job Stress Analysis for Your Own Workplace

This freely accessible evidence-based tool takes about 20 minutes and asks about relevant stressors and resources of one's own workplace. Based on the results, tips are also given on how to optimize individual stressors and resources in everyday work.
Friendly Workspace: Job-Stress-Analysis (in German)


Semmer, N. K., Zapf, D., & Dunckel, H. (1999). Instrument zur Stressbezogenen Tätigkeitsanalyse (ISTA) [Instrument for stress-oriented task analysis (ISTA)]. In H. Dunkel (Ed.), Handbuch psychologischer Arbeitsanalyseverfahren (pp. 179–204). Zürich, Switzerland: vdf Hochschulverlag an der ETH.