Such is the extent of “human spam”, also known as endless interruptions from colleagues, that many offices are now creating “do not disturb” zones so people can get quality work done.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, a workplace specialist who consults across Africa, said it was increasingly common for companies to set up zones or rooms where absolutely no noise is permitted.

“They are essentially a filling station for the mind. We hear from companies that many people complain of only being able to get work done after 5pm when everyone else goes home. People try to work but find it hard to do more than a few minutes continuously because they are interrupted by the phone ringing, people watching funny videos on Facebook, other colleagues coming over to ask questions or the general hullabaloo of the office.”

Trim said it was absurd so many people commute in to an office specifically to work and then are only really being able to get down to it once colleagues had gone home. “We’ve also seen a trend in people taking work home so they can work in peace.”

To counter this and enable greater office productivity, Trim said they have been installing “quiet zones” which are reminiscent of old-fashioned libraries in their rules. “Typically this would be a room, a booth or an area where no talking, no cell phones or other disturbances are allowed.”

They are designed for when people really need to knuckle down and get work done free from the human spam of colleagues.”

Trim said they had designed and install more than a dozen quiet zones this year. She noted they are not intended to encourage some people to permanently work in them, but rather provide a place for short, intense periods of work where concentration and thinking is needed.

“Companies have noted that these zones improve productivity because someone can go (into the zone) and knock out a particular job in an hour. The same work in the general office area often takes three of four times as long because of all the interruptions.”

Trim also noted it seemed to be a boon for keeping colleague relationships sweet: “Instead of sitting at a desk fuming because someone won’t keep quiet, a worker can simply slip away to a quiet space.”

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