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Are Office Distractions Costing You More Than You Realize?

Today’s work environment is bombarded with distractions.

According to researchers at the University of California, the average employee is interrupted every 11 minutes, and it takes most employees about 23 minutes to get back on task. What this means is that most people never get to the point of being “in flow” during the average workday.

In another study by MBI Hackernoon on high-performance employees, 40 percent of respondents reported they are interrupted at least 8 times per day. Extrapolating, they found that office distractions cost companies an average of more than $30,000 per year.

If you work in an office, you’re probably used to being interrupted while you are working. Even when you’re under a tight deadline, it’s likely that you will still check your email, read social media comments, or surf the internet.

Here are the 5 most common work-related distractions and suggestions for how to manage them.

  1. Personal Tech Devices

Smartphones, smartwatches and other personal smart technology devices have blurred the lines between professional and personal communication. Company policies are rarely effective since it is difficult to enforce them. A better strategy is to encourage employees to put their devices away for blocks of time each day to give them time to focus on work.

  1. Email Management

Many of the email messages we receive are not important, but we may find it hard to resist looking at them as soon as they arrive in our inbox. Here are five ways you can manage your email messages so you don’t get distracted from more important tasks:

  • Plan to check your emails at certain times each day. For example, many professionals will limit email viewing to twice a day for a maximum of 30 minutes during each email-viewing session in order to limit the amount of time spent on email communications.
  • Choose “low-productivity” times like right before lunch and before you leave each day. Save your peak performance time for high-value tasks.
  • If an email message requires more than a few minutes, consider adding it to your To-Do list or calendar so you can address it at a time that makes more sense for your work flow.
  • Trash your emails as often as possible. Don’t keep your emails forever. The larger your inbox, the more difficult it is to manage. Keep your email archive manageable and it will save you time in the long run.
  • Redirect your emails to your phone. This will help free up your computer from distractions and give you more opportunity to manage your email feed during “downtime” like while you’re waiting for an appointment or traveling.
  1. Social Media

Social media provides a means of communicating with vast numbers of people. Many find that social media engagement zaps their time and productivity, taking away from important work tasks and breaking concentration.

Companies need to find ways to motivate employees to avoid social media-based distractions. One organizational tool that can be helpful is the Adams’ Equity Theory to illustrate the serious impact on workplace productivity excessive social media use can have.

People are encouraged to track their own social media activity over a week’s time, noting how much time they spend each day on social networking sites. Use time blocking to set aside a certain number of minutes each day to post updates or respond to messages.

  1. Instant messaging

Many companies today use an instant messaging platform to keep team members in touch with one another. However, this can be a distraction if not managed. Use instant messaging for short, quick messages or questions – not for conversations. Manage your time by planning certain times for responding and don’t submit to the temptation to be constantly “on call.”

  1. Browsing online

Who doesn’t enjoy reading the latest headlines, checking your RSS feed aggregators and shopping online? These activities can easily eat into your work time (not to mention often running afoul of company policy).

Since most companies now use cloud-based software, turning off your browser isn’t usually an option. However, you can install website blocking software that you configure yourself to restrict access to content that will cause distractions during your work time.

Office and online distractions are something we’ve all experienced. Distractions can have a negative impact on our productivity and cause us more stress. Take some time to really study what distracts you the most during your day and work to develop new habits that will help you control your distractors. Consider ways to “block” or limit the time you spend on your phone, messaging, email and social media. Let others know when you don’t want to be disturbed or find a place away from the hustle and bustle of your office to give you quiet time to work.

If you manage a team, think about ways you can support your team members to remove or reduce distractions so they can get more done every day, as well as go home less stressed.

Lanier Upshaw, Inc. supports happy and successful business teams. Visit our blog, The Upshot, often and feel free to contact us here to learn more about our innovative risk protection solutions designed to help businesses achieve their goals.