10 Distractions in the Workplace and How to Manage Them

From a flashing mobile phone to chatty colleagues, distractions in the office can take many forms and can easily affect your team’s productivity. More than 75 percent of employees have accepted that workplace distraction is a major issue for their productivity. Another report has informed that an average employee spends around 28 percent of this total time at work dealing with interruption.

So, how to avoid office distractions before they become a major issue? As a manager, you need to begin by understanding the factors that distract your team. To help with that, here we have curated the 10 most common distractions in the workplace and how you can tackle them.

How Distractions Affect Productivity?

Distractions while working can have a great impact on employees’ productivity. When an employee is interrupted constantly, it takes effort and time to get back on track. As per a study conducted by the University of California, employees spend around 12 minutes on a certain task before they are interrupted. Besides, they take more than 23 minutes to refocus.

Now, just multiply these 12 minutes by the total number of workplace distractions during a day and you can clearly understand how badly those distractions can affect the overall productivity. They don’t just consume time but also impact the work quality.

When a person is not completely focused or dedicated to the task, he/she will make some mistakes or miss out on crucial details.  This, in turn, can cause delays. Furthermore, distractions also increase stress and make employees feel overwhelmed. Workplace distractions can affect productivity by:

  • Impending workers’ problem-solving and creativity skills
  • Breaking their concentration
  • Affecting the workflow
  • Lowering efficiency
  • Triggering stress and frustration

Common Distractions and Solutions

1. Unproductive Meetings

Undoubtedly, meetings are important for every organization as they offer an opportunity to communicate and collaborate. Besides, meetings help employees to stay on the same page. However, unnecessary meetings can be a major source of distractions at work

.As per a survey carried out by the University of North Carolina, around 65 percent of participants informed that meetings greatly affect their workflow. Around 71 percent of them termed office meetings as inefficient and unproductive. Another research reported that average employees spend around 31 hours every month in meetings that don’t even offer any positive results.

Solution:
One of the most effective ways to address this issue is by making those meetings more effective. Set a clear agenda and outline the goals and topics that will be covered in the meeting. You can also try limiting the number of attendees and invite employees related to the meeting’s topic.

Don’t forget to allocate a specific time slot for the meeting. Another way is by using alternative communication methods. For instance, you can use project management tools or email to allow employees to review data and offer suggestions at their own pace. This way you can reduce the need for frequent meetings.

2. Digital Notifications

Constant notifications from email, messaging apps, or other apps can also affect the workflow. If you keep responding to all messages and emails, it will be very challenging to focus on work. A study conducted on some employees from a car rental company in the UK informed that when they were distracted by an email, they took one-third more time to complete a certain task.

Solution:
To avoid such distractions at the workplace, you can encourage employees to put their smartphones or computers in Do Not Disturb mode. Instead of checking and replying to emails one by one, set a particular time limit to process those emails. You can also opt for batch email replying.

It is also advisable to set boundaries around their working hours so that other employees and friends can predict when they are free to talk. Remember that if there is any emergency, people will not send you an email to inform you, they will knock on your door or call you.

3. Lack of Delegations

If just one employee is assigned to handle multiple responsibilities and tasks, it can lead to inefficiency and overwhelm. This also increases job dissatisfaction. Experts say, that micromanaging or failing to delegate tasks properly causes burnout, suboptimal results, and missed deadlines.
This can easily distract your employees from focusing on a task. What’s more? It may also cause anxiety. The result will be a stressed and frustrated team.

Solution:
Try to understand the team and every employee of it professionally and personally. It will help you identify their weakness, strengths, areas of expertise, and more. Now, based on that you can assign the right tasks. Don’t force them for a task.

Let them discover, learn, and share their opinions. You should also let them make mistakes and help them only when they need your help. Managers can also offer required training to their employees to develop delegation skills and encourage them to take the task ownership.

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4. Office Ambient Noise

As per the Noise and Wellbeing at Work report, more than 52 percent of workers got distracted by noise distraction and 65 percent of them informed that ambiance noise affected their performance. Noise at the workplace can also make employees unmotivated and stressed. The noise of phone ringing, running machines, opening or closing of doors, loud snacking, etc., can create distractions.

Solution:
In the workplace, it is impossible to eliminate the noise. But you can offer your employees distraction-free spaces to keep them focused. For example, create a closed-door space or a quiet room. It is also your responsibility to help your remote employees create a quiet working zone. Using a noise-cancelling headphone can also be a good option here.

5. Multitasking

In today’s competitive world, every employee is expected to perform better and stay one step ahead while dealing with various responsibilities and tasks. Every employee may think that with multitasking, they can save time. However, one study has found that around 2.5 percent of people can effectively multitask.

Remember that everyone’s brain is limited in how many tasks they can do simultaneously. Rapidly switching between multiple tasks can affect an employee’s productivity. While multitasking, employees refocus on new tasks constantly while distracting themselves from the tasks that they need to complete first.

Solution:
First of all, check how your team takes up multitasking. Be aware of your employee’s multitasking skills and try to scale up them with fruitful guidance., then develop the skillsets of your employees to multitask effectively. Besides, you can come up with a to-do list and mention the tasks that the team needs to complete first. Follow the list and strike off the tasks as they are finished. They can also combine similar tasks and try to complete the challenging task first.

6. Social Media

As per a study,  managers informed that social media is one of the major workplace distractions

, affecting around 34 percent of employees. Social media users spend around 2 hours and 23 minutes every day using various social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., there are many platforms to claim peoples’ attention. The author of Deep Work, Cal Newport, in his TED Talk episode, said that using a social media platform is like visiting a casino.

Solution:
First of all, try to set a specific timeframe to use social media. While working, encourage employees to turn off notifications. Social media policies for workplaces can also be an effective way in this. Creating policies that help save time as well as encourage proper use of social media in the workplace can boost the chances of productivity.

Another solution is using a website blocker to prevent employees from using social media platforms through office computers. You also implement a policy that clearly states employees are allowed to use social media or other digital media platforms only during their break hours.

7. Competing Deadlines and Priorities

Assigning too many tasks to employees can also cause distractions from work

. How? Well, as they have to complete all the tasks within a deadline, they will jump from one task to another without taking any break and that can easily affect their concentration.

Furthermore, such issues can lead to stress and burnout. In some cases, it can also cause poor work quality. Because they will not get enough time to conduct proper research and analysis. As employees feel pressure to complete the tasks, it can have a negative impact on their productivity as well as health.

Solution:
Every manager needs to understand the current workload of every employee. Before assigning new tasks, ensure to check whether the employee will be able to handle it or not. Always set realistic expectations and allow employees to confidently communicate their limitations.

This way you can reduce unnecessary work pressure. It will also be a better idea to use a workload management program. These programs are designed to offer an insight into how much has been assigned to an employee and what is the current status.

You can also check whether they need more time to complete a task and change the deadlines accordingly.

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8. Insecure Communication Apps

Every employee has their favorite communication app. But when they use those apps in the workplace, it creates workplace distractions. 

. Every notification tempts them to check their phone for memes, GIFs, viral videos, etc., and then they get indulged in it, killing their focus and productivity.

On the other hand, using an insecure messenger app can also create risks. Personal files, conversions, and photos can get mixed up easily while switching between office-related and private chats. If the chatting platforms used for conversation are insecure, they can lead to data theft, affecting the confidentially and integrity of office communications.

Solution:
As a solution, you should use a secure and encrypted communication channel. Encourage employees to use messaging apps with authentication features. Besides, motivate the team to designate specific times during the working hours to check private messages, for example, the lunch or tea break.

Managers can implement different policies informing about approved communication tools and offer required training to make communication secure. This will also help in lowering the chances of data theft.

9. Cluttered Workspace

A messy or cluttered workplace can negatively impact your ability to focus as well as process information properly. Clutter can come in different forms. It can be a pile of boxes on your desk, stacks of papers that employees don’t need anymore, etc.

A cluttered desk or workplace can also lead to difficulty in locating required items and may increase stress and anxiety. A survey informed that around 21 percent of employees believed that a cluttered workplace increased their workload and around 20 percent of them admitted that a colleague’s messy space also impacted their performance.

Solution:
Well, the solution is quite simple. Begin by decluttering the workspace every day and removing all those unnecessary items from the desk. Encourage your employees to make a habit of keeping paperwork in the right files or they can also use cloud storage solutions to lower this.

Even though it feels tempting to enjoy some snacks while working, dirty crumbs or dishes can make your desk unpleasant. So, try to keep your table food-free. Employers can also implement policies to maintain a clean workspace and reward employees for it.

10. Office Gossip

There is no doubt that building good relationships with your colleagues or team at the office is an important thing. In fact, regular conversations play an important role in creating a collaborative and friendly atmosphere. However, when there are endless gossip and conversations, you need to start worrying about it.

Talking for hours about TV shows, or gossiping about an employee is not just a distraction, it can also make the workplace toxic. Gossip can affect trust, creativity, and productivity while triggering anxiety and divisiveness.

Solution
If you have any issues with distracting or chatty workers, try to tell them how gossiping is affecting your work. Politely say no to them stating that you have some important work to complete. However, you can meet them during the lunch hours. If you have your own working space, then keep the door closed. Another method is to use headphones to avoid such distractions

Conclusion

Distractions at work can wreak havoc on the focus and productivity of workers. From cluttered office spaces to office meetings, there are many forms of distractions that can easily disturb dedicated employees. But by using the techniques and strategies mentioned here, it is possible to reduce those distractions and come up with a productive work environment.

It is important to address workplace distractions as soon as possible and implement the right policies for all. This way, you can unlock your employees’ maximum potential and help them increase their productivity.

FAQs

While technology can be a source of workplace distraction, it can also help in dismissing it. There are many productivity tools and software that one can use to track employees’ time and manage their working hours more effectively. Besides, one can also opt for video meetings to save time. 

Some effective strategies to manage distractions at the office include setting boundaries, focusing on time management, using the right productivity tools, prioritizing tasks, and limiting access to the mobile phone.

Some of the biggest workplace distractions are the use of social media, checking notifications, noise levels, chatty workers, and excessive work pressure.

If you want to increase your productivity, then come up with a dedicated workspace. Besides, set clear objectives and follow a routine. Don’t forget to check your progress regularly.

No. Getting distracted frequently is not a good sign and it likely happens due to increased stress and other workplace-related factors. This can lead to exhaustion and less productivity. So, try to reduce it.

More than 54 percent of employees have reported that they witnessed an increase in their productivity by working outside of the conventional office setting. This indicates that a greater number of employees are now looking for flexible work models.

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