After working from home for more than a year, many employees are beginning to return to in-person work. For some, working in an office setting can bring many interruptions such as impromptu chats. But a study from the IU Kelley School of Business at IUPUI finds that those interruptions can actually be good – as long as the conversations are related to work. The researchers argue against popular belief that workplace interruptions are bad for business. They surveyed the experiences of hundreds of workers and their co-workers and found that if intrusions are “in-role,” meaning they have something to do with work that’s significant, that interruption can actually increase work engagement, collaboration and the degree to which employees are willing to help the organization and each other. On the other hand, the researchers found that “non-role intrusions,” or interruptions involving a co-worker who stops to chat or socialize about non-work-related topics, are detrimental. Employees who are interrupted with non-role intrusions are less engaged in their work and ultimately less helpful to the organization. IU Assistant Professor Ryan Outlaw says the research showing that in-role interruptions boost important and desirable behaviors of employees is important for managers to consider when looking at post-pandemic work arrangements. Creating or revisiting expectations when it comes to workplace interruptions will be beneficial, especially as employees head back to the office, Outlaw says. The researchers say establishing norms around workplace interruptions – especially when working in the office after being home – will also help ensure the benefits of “in-role” intrusions are not undermined if they occur too frequently or not enough.
In other news, scientists have been busy researching whether fully-vaccinated individuals need booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccines. What are booster shots and what do they mean for our fight against COVID-19? A booster dose for any vaccine is an additional dose of the original vaccine given after the original immunity and protection begins to wane, as determined by research, says infectious diseases expert Lana Dbeibo. COVID-19 research, she says, shows that after about six to eight months, the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine is not as high as it is right after the initial two doses, for mild disease. However, Dbeibo says, effectiveness is still extremely high, and these vaccines, even without a booster, continue to protect people from severe disease and hospitalization. These vaccines have saved countless lives and are protecting people from severe disease, she says, and getting vaccinated continues to be our best defense against the ongoing pandemic. Dbeibo says many vaccines begin to lose effectiveness over time, which is why boosters exist in the first place. Currently, the FDA has authorized a third dose of the mRNA vaccines for individuals who are immunocompromised, which can be given 28 days after their second dose. While it’s the same vaccine and same dosage, Dbeibo says this additional dose for non-immunocompromised people is not yet approved, and scientists are still assessing the data. If approved for non-immunocompromised patients, the third dose will be given at least six to eight months after the initial two doses, and she expects the FDA and CDC to announce further recommendations for boosters in the coming weeks. While many people are anxious about getting a booster to increase their vaccine’s effectiveness, Dbeibo says she is most concerned about getting everyone fully vaccinated. The unvaccinated population continues to be most at risk for severe cases of COVID-19 and death from the virus, she says. Vaccination plays a critical role in the pandemic, Dbeibo says, especially with the delta variant running through our communities.