When I started in the insurance business right out of college, I spent nine months in training learning the basics of commercial insurance policies for business. After nine months of studying contracts and staring at insurance policies, I was beyond ready to get in the field!
Shortly after being released from training detail, I began setting up my home office and managing the details of working from home. On the second day in my office, at about 9am, I received a call from my boss who politely asked what any manager would ask his bright (my words, not his) new employee:
"So, what are you doing right now?"
I proudly responded that I was in my office doing some research on the prospects that I wanted to target for the next few months. There was an awkward silence on the other end of the phone. When the silence broke, he said:
"Brandon, you better grab whatever research you are doing and go get in your car and drive to a client/prospect/suspect. We need to get one thing clear right away: You don't make money when you're in the office."
Throughout my career, I have heard that man's voice echo in my head every time I have spent more than a day in my office! When I am working with producers across North America, almost all are looking for ways to grow. One of the first questions I ask them is: "How much time are you spending in the office?" Almost always, the answer is "Too much."
I was reading an article recently in the Wall Street Journal about office distractions. The article highlighted several studies on office productivity and anyone that has spent anytime in an office will not find the statistics that surprising:
When you are in the office, the average time spent on a task before being interrupted was only 12 minutes, 40 seconds. Once interrupted, the subjects of several studies took an average of 25 minutes, 26 seconds to resume the task from which they were originally distracted.
That's right, you spend almost double the time trying to refocus your brain on a task than you do actually working on said task! And just in case you are saying to yourself: "I just close my office door when I need to get work done."
Studies also show that a whopping 49% of tasks are interrupted when people work in private offices.
So how do we fix it?
For producers: take the advice of my early mentor and get out of the office! With technology as it is today, you can do almost anything remotely, if needed. Challenge yourself to not eat lunch alone for the next two weeks and spend that time connecting with centers of influence, current clients or potential prospects with the sole intention of opening new doors. Challenge yourself to produce your "perfect" schedule of only being in the office on Monday and Friday to handle what needs to be done with your team and spend the other days out in the field.
For those times when we must be in the office or for those who are on our office team: Set ground rules for the office where the team understands what interruptions cost and we lead a culture that sends an email with several items or schedules time to get together when that meeting has a good agenda with a purpose. There is nothing written in stone that says we have to listen to our Outlook calendar when it gives us :30 or 1 hour blocks for meetings. Meetings can last for 20 minutes! You won't be fined by the office police!
I recently worked with one office that has "strategy rooms" that have a strict code that states when the door is closed, no one can interrupt. There are only three of those rooms for the 50 person firm and they are open to any team member. Their culture is one that is leading the way in maintaining an "open" office while also limiting the amount of wasted time due to distraction.
In my first year with my early mentor, I exceeded every goal that was laid out for me and received national recognition from our company for the results achieved. Get out of the office and see what you can accomplish!