37Signals honcho and Rework author Jason Fried explains why his company, and perhaps yours, benefits mightily from making passive tools like web chat, IM and even email a default communication tool, rather than calling meetings, yelling names and knocking on doors.
We've previously pointed to Fried's thoughts on how proximity kills productivity through such means as keeping unplugged earphones in your ears. Fried makes a strong argument for the non-emergency nature of most workplace interruptions, though — in almost every case, a ping in a web chat or IM would have sufficed, and not answering it until you were done focusing on what you had to focus on would be fine.
Then again, Fried manages a company full of programmers that make minimalist web software, and admits that there's (intentionally) not much of a hierarchy at his firm. You may not be able to just shut the door or give mean stares from your desk — and many BoingBoing commenters promote the subtle values of coworker distractions. Still, Fried's video chat is a good reminder that we can all probably benefit from directing our coworker to our inboxes.