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When the director turns on the music, peace descends on the open-plan office

In two branches of Sydbank, a method has been found to help the employees concentrate better on their work in open-plan offices. This has led to more efficient work and fewer errors, an evaluation shows.

18. Sep 2023
4 min
English / Dansk
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, time is earmarked for dedication at Sydbank in Sønderborg. Photo: Sydbank

When the clock strikes 8.30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Dorthe Lykke Jørgensen, Retail Client Director, turns on the music at Sydbank in Sønderborg. A single song is played from the playlist, and then the radio is switched off.

That is the sign for the branch’s 25 employees, who immediately make themselves comfortable at their computers with coffee, water and whatever else they need before it is time for an hour and a half of concentrated work. Small talk, the exchange of views and ideas or questions for colleagues are put on hold for later. Only the phones may ring and interrupt the silence.

"We want to create the peace that we felt was often lacking," Dorthe Lykke Jørgensen explains.
Since June, both her branches in Sønderborg and Gråsten have enjoyed specific dedication time slots. These are a permanent part of the employees' calendars on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8.30am, when the workday begins.

At 9.50am, another song is played from the playlist. The music marks the end of the dedication time slot, and it is now time for a joint ten-minute break, during which you may go for a walk or have a chat with your colleagues at the coffee machine before getting on with your work.

Working efficiently and making fewer mistakes

In an open-plan office, where employees are constantly bouncing ideas off one another, it is sometimes difficult to find the peace required to perform the tasks.

Therefore, Dorthe Lykke Jørgensen and her management team were inspired by the tool "Fordybelsespyramiden” (the dedication hierarchy).

Here, one of the methods for ensuring peace amid ringing phones, an overflowing inbox and colleagues looking to exchange views and ideas is to set aside dedication time in the calendar.

(Artiklen fortsætter efter boksen)
We’ve achieved good results from introducing dedication time in the branch, says Dorthe Lykke Jørgensen, Retail Client Director. Photo: Sydbank

And it has produced good results in the branch even though it took some getting used to by everyone, says the Retail Client Director.

After two months, she asked the employees to evaluate the dedication time, which was initially introduced as an experiment. And the feedback was very positive.

According to Dorthe Lykke Jørgensen, some employees state that they work more efficiently, others that they make fewer mistakes, while some state that it makes them better advisers.

"The message is, really, that they appreciate this time because they get the opportunity to concentrate in ways they have not been able to before. They get help to concentrate," Dorthe Lykke Jørgensen explains.

The positive feedback has led to the dedication time becoming a permanent part of the workday in the branches.

"When everybody is prepared for peace and quiet, we start off the day together and get in step together."
- Bo Hellesøe, Retail Client Adviser at Sydbank in Sønderborg

A head start for the day

It is up to the employees to decide how to spend the dedication time slots. And that pleases Bo Hellesøe, Retail Client Adviser.

"The head start for the day is much better for my clients because I get to create a good structure and to prioritise the tasks I have to do during the day," he explains.

He often spends the time dealing with the more complex credit cases. And it is his impression that he works more efficiently and makes fewer mistakes.

At the same time, he also feels that it contributes positively to the interaction between colleagues in the branch.

"When everybody is prepared for peace and quiet, we start off the day together and get in step together." And I think that benefits the entire group dynamics," says Bo Hellesøe.

The hierarchy of dedication

The hierarchy of dedication has been developed in a collaboration between Finansforbundet, Forsikringsforbundet (trade union for employees in insurance companies, pension and unemployment funds), the Danish Employers’ Association for the Financial Sector (FA), the other parties of Branchefællesskabet for Arbejdsmiljø for Handel, Finans og Kontor (Danish industry association for the working environment of the commercial, finance and office sectors), as well as Pia Hauge, Management Consultant and author.

The hierarchy consists of seven steps:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Brain breaks
  3. A good environment
  4. Digital peace to work
  5. Meaningful tasks
  6. Time
  7. Motivation

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