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Workplace disruptions may create a greater sense of belonging among coworkers

Experts say losing out on time working shouldn’t be a concern

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Photo (c) Inti St Clair - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Cincinnati explored the positive benefits associated with coworkers disrupting each other in the workplace

Although some workers may feel like disruptions throw them off in terms of productivity, the team’s findings suggest that it can actually help reinforce camaraderie. The study highlighted that when coworkers are disrupted, it helps create greater feelings of belonging in the workplace

“If the past year of social distancing and isolation has shown us anything, it is that humans are social beings who have an inherent need for interacting with others,” said researcher Harshad Puranik, Ph.D. 

Strengthening workplace relationships

For the study, the researchers had 111 full-time workers complete surveys twice a day for three weeks. The participants answered questions about how often they got disrupted while working, their overall job satisfaction, how comfortable they felt with their coworkers, and how drained they felt by their jobs. 

Ultimately, the researchers found that there were repercussions to productivity when workers were interrupted; however, perhaps more importantly, they found that there was a social aspect involved. The study found that disruptions were associated with greater camaraderie in the workplace, and participants reported feeling like they belonged among their coworkers.

“Our study revealed that by providing this avenue for social interaction with one’s colleagues, work interruptions led to a greater sense of belonging,” said Dr. Puranik. “This sense of belonging, in turn, led to higher job satisfaction.” 

Weighing the positives and negatives

The researchers explained that there were some negatives associated with persistent workplace disruptions. Some participants reported feeling mentally drained by being interrupted because it interfered with their ability to complete tasks. 

However, the researchers say the positive social aspects outweighed the negative productivity aspects. While disruptions may make it harder to get things done at work, they can help coworkers build stronger social bonds. 

“The sense of belongingness mitigated the negative effect of interruptions on job satisfaction,” said researcher Heather C. Vough. “Thus, interruptions at work may have gotten a bad rap due to a failure to consider their human element.” 

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