Top 15 most disruptive office distractions, according to 5,000 employees

Distracted Workers Hurt Your Bottom Line

Top 15 most disruptive office distractions, according to 5,000 employees

  • Keeping employees free of distractions is critical to maintain high productivity.
  • Smartphones and excessive internet usage can decrease work productivity.
  • Some ways to manage your team's productivity are to accommodate various working styles and environments, provide access to time-management training, and implement monitoring software if necessary.
  • This article is for employers who want to know what could be distracting their employees and the steps they can take to keep productivity high.

Keeping employees focused and free of distractions is harder than ever. When you work in an office, there are co-workers stopping by to chat, a deluge of meetings and a host of other interruptions.

While some of those office distractions are gone with many employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, a whole new set of disruptions can take employees' focus off their work at home. To get the most your employees, you need to be clear about your expectations and policies, while providing resources and training on best productivity practices.

What is the importance of employee productivity?

The main distraction culprits, according to an infographic by Atlassian, are excessive emails, pointless meetings and constant interruptions, with social media coming in at a close fourth.

The average worker checks their email 36 times an hour and takes 16 minutes to refocus after handling a new email.

Many employees attend at least 60 meetings per month, through which 91% of employees say they daydreamed. And it takes most workers two hours per day to recover from interruptions from co-workers.

These distractions don't just take away from your staff's focus – they cost you money in the long run.

According to a 2018 survey by Udemy, more than 70% of workers report feeling distracted on the job, with 16% saying they almost always feel unfocused.

 All of this lost work is costing American businesses upward of $650 billion per year, and it is leading to vicious cycles of employee dissatisfaction: Productivity loss causes a longer workday, which causes stress and frustration, which leads to a lack of engagement.

Key takeaway: When workers feel distracted on the job, it can lead to productivity loss, inefficiency and overpayment for labor, all of which affect your business's bottom line.

Editor's note: Looking for an employee monitoring solution for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs

Smartphones at work

There are conflicting opinions on whether smartphones increase or decrease productivity in the workplace. In a 2018 Google survey, 75% of workers said that handheld devices increase their productivity. After the pandemic started, though, Screen Education conducted a survey that found workers spend an average of 2.5 hours per workday using their smartphones for non-work reasons.

It comes down to how the device is being used. If an employee only uses their smartphone during the workday for productivity, managing their calendar or connecting with clients, then it is probably doing more good than harm.

However, with all those productivity apps comes social media, the ultimate distraction. It can be all too easy to jump from your emails to , even if you tell yourself it's just to get rid of the ever-present notification bubbles. The next thing you know, you've wasted 25 minutes scrolling through your news feed.

“It's expected that employees will be inundated with plenty of distractions throughout the workday,” said Dean Debnam, CEO of Workplace Options. “The important thing to remember is for employees to find a way to balance their workday and find ways to focus.”

Some apps can help you track your own phone usage, which could give you an idea of how much time your employees may be wasting.

If you find you waste a lot of time on your own phone and are able to overcome it, you could share the strategies that worked for you with your team.

Perhaps you could start by asking employees to set “do not disturb” periods for phone notifications (except in emergencies, of course). You can also recommend employees place their phones sight – such as in a bag or drawer.

The internet at work

An employee monitoring system could be one answer to the problem of distracted employees. A program such as Activity Monitor will give you insight into your employees' online activities. It displays how employees spent their time, which websites they visited, what files they downloaded and their number of IM chats.

Before you implement any such technological monitoring, set up an official company policy about non-work use of company equipment. Transparency is always a good practice – be forthcoming about how your monitoring aligns with company goals and how you're going to do it.

According to a survey by Dtex Systems and The Harris Poll, “77% of employed Americans would be less concerned with their employer monitoring their digital activity on personal or work-issued devices they use to conduct work, as long as they are transparent about it and let them know up front.”

There are some legal concerns when it comes to monitoring online behavior.

There is practically no expectation of privacy on a company computer, but you need to be careful about what types of data you're acquiring and how you're storing that data.

You don't want to run afoul of privacy laws, such as HIPAA. If a data breach were to occur, it could leave you vulnerable to a lawsuit.

Key takeaway: Smartphones and internet access are some culprits of productivity loss. Companies should establish clear policies on acceptable device and internet usage. Employee monitoring software is also an option if employers go about it transparently, responsibly and legally.

How to boost employee productivity

So, how should businesses tackle this issue? There's no simple answer.

“This is a big question,” said Nancy Snell, a certified professional business coach. “Issues must be addressed culturally and start from the top down.”

1. Restructure your workdays

Many companies adopt no-email or no-meeting days or have strict policies regarding cell phone use at work. Some practice a culture of flexibility and remote work to help employees customize their work environment and workflow day to day as needed.

In an article for Chief Learning Officer, Sapience Analytics CEO Brad Killinger recommends implementing a “golden hour” where “for one hour, companies create a focused work environment devoid of distractions by asking employees to block apps, chat, and notifications; curtail phone usage; avoid email; put the kibosh on meetings; and deny outside visitor access, etc.”

A regular golden hour can add more than $400 million annually to a company with 5,000 employees and improve employees' peace of mind and engagement, according to Killinger.

2. Value work completion over office attendance

In an article for Inc.

, Rhett Power, CEO of Power Coaching and Consulting, recommends employers emphasize the importance of staying on task over presenteeism, which is when an employee shows up to work for the sake of physically being there rather than getting quality work done. Send a clear message that completing the task is what is most important, whether it gets done from a desk or the couch.

3. Offer time-management training

You might want to make time-management skill workshops part of your onboarding process. It's also a good idea to offer periodic training opportunities to help employees build and maintain crucial productivity skills.

4. Be understanding of different workflows

The important part of any anti-distraction strategy is to avoid micromanaging employees and making them feel distrusted or watched. Instead, you want to provide opportunities for employees to do what works best for them in terms of focus and productivity, and remember that needs will vary.

For example, one employee might need background noise as they work, and another employee may need to get up and walk around every hour. When it comes to concentration, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

5. Consider employee monitoring software

Employee monitoring software enables you to understand and measure how much time workers are spending on their tasks and assignments. Some systems can track your team's keystrokes, mouse activity, social media and web history. When employees know you are keeping a close eye on their work, it can serve as an encouragement to stay on task.

This software can be especially valuable now, with many businesses moving to remote work. It can provide employers an indication of how employees are spending their days while working from home.

The important thing is to be upfront with your employees and discerning as to what kinds of data you collect; otherwise, you could run afoul of privacy laws.

[Interested in employee monitoring software for your business? Check out our best picks and reviews to see what's out there.]

Key takeaway: There are several steps you can take to help boost your team's productivity. You can restructure workdays, understand and allow for various workflows and work environments, provide time-management training, and/or implement employee monitoring software to let employees know their computer activity is being tracked.

Simone Johnson and Ned Smith contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.


Can Employees Be More Productive From Home? –

Top 15 most disruptive office distractions, according to 5,000 employees

The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the possibilities of working from home. Although there have been digital nomads working remotely for years, traditional roles were shackled to the office.

However, with the lockdown conditions, many employers have had to make adjustments to allow their team members to work from home. According to a GetAbstract study, 43% of Americans would prefer to work remotely even once the current crisis has ended.

However, what we need to explore is, are we more productive from home?

The professional and mental differences between the home and office

We’ve all seen clips of Zoom meetings where team members are in their PJs, or kids are wandering around in the background. There is no denying that there is a massive difference between the home and the office. However, this is just a surface observation, and it is worth further investigation.

According to a Buffer survey, 99% of workers would prefer to work remotely at least some of the time, and 40% of remote workers believe the biggest benefit is the flexible schedule. However, there are some challenges: 22% of survey respondents found it difficult to obtain a healthy work-life balance, and 19% reported feeling lonely.

Switching off from work may also be a problem, as 43% of remote workers only took 10 to 15 days of vacation per year.

While you may find your team members gossiping around the water cooler in the office to be a distraction, there are ly to be far more distractions for your workers at home.

Since your workers will not be leaving their workplace, and with the possibility of co-workers in different time zones, workers can end up working longer hours or frequent smaller shifts, which can increase stress levels.

Remote workers also enjoy flexible scheduling, which can reduce absenteeism and also save day-to-day costs. There is no need to take a day off here and a day off there to meet any personal obligations.

What does working from home mean for productivity?

Despite the potential problems caused by the professional and mental differences between the office and home, there are some productivity benefits of remote working. In an Airtasker survey, remote workers were found to be more productive. In addition to eliminating the daily commute, remote workers tended to lose less time during the typical working day.

Outside of the lunch break and standard breaks, office workers lost an average of 37 minutes, compared to 27 minutes lost by remote workers.

Also, when mouse movement or screen time was tracked, the amount of time avoiding working was 39% for remote workers compared to 56% for office workers.

So, although remote workers may have more distractions to deal with, they are more typically more productive once they get down to work.

In a Stanford study, remote workers were found to be 13% more productive compared to their office counterparts. Remote workers ranked their productivity higher in other studies. For example, in a Canada Life survey, remote workers ranked productivity at 7.7 10, while office workers ranked their productivity at 6.5 10.

Since remote workers don't have a loud environment and the distractions of unnecessary meetings, it is thought that this enhances productivity. Additionally, since the stress of commuting is eliminated, remote workers are able to focus on their tasks rather than needing to wind down from the stress of the morning rush hour.

The current climate is one of uncertainty. With areas around the world still in lockdown, the global economy on hold, and various restrictions around the country, many employers are still focused on limiting the possible disruption with remote working. While there are many pros and cons of remote working, it can offer some structure in this uncertain time.

Additionally, with the financial pressures caused by the pandemic, business owners may be able to cut their costs by moving some or all of their team to remote working. Although there are some costs involved in setting up teams to work from home, businesses can save money on property costs, cleaning services and even food.

In fact, in a recent Gartner survey, 3 4 of the financial executives questioned would consider moving 5% or more of their onsite workers to permanent remote positions after the current crisis ends. It looks working from home is here to stay.

7 tips to improve work productivity at home

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to improve you and your employees' productivity while ensuring a healthy work-life balance.

1. Create a schedule

Working from home does provide flexibility, but too much flexibility can compromise your productivity. It is important to establish a schedule that you – and your employees – can work most days.

Each person will need to figure out the routine that works best for them. It is a good idea to focus on work time and separate this from one's relaxation time. Encourage your employees to adopt a morning routine, just  they would if they were going into the office. This will help prepare one's mindset of getting ready to work.

2. Set your priorities

Because your workers no longer have a supervisor looking over their shoulders, they need to take responsibility for their workflow. Encourage them to prioritize tasks to ensure that everything gets done without dragging their workday into their after-hours relaxation time.

Many remote workers find a to-do list helpful or use an urgent, important, not urgent, unimportant chart. This helps individuals focus on those must-do tasks rather than procrastinating with easier, less-important things.

Whatever tool your employees use, they'll need to ensure that they work through their priorities during allotted work hours, so you don't have to push too hard and risk burning employees out.

3. Minimize distractions

Optimizing productivity means getting the most one's working hours. So, it is crucial that employees minimize distractions.

During your weekly check-ins, ask your employes to write down a list of their most intrusive tasks; talk about those tasks and distractions, and what might ameliorate those distractions.

 There are tools that can help one maintain their focus, such as white noise players, but you can both strategize about what works best for the employee.

4. Create a comfortable workspace

No one can be productive when they feel uncomfortable and fidgety. It is important to create a comfortable workspace.

Ideally, this would be in a quiet area of an individual's home, but even if they're working at their kitchen table, they need a comfortable place to sit. The computer screen needs to be set at eye level, and they should have adequate back support.

Again, use your weekly check-in as an opportunity to ask about the employee's workspace and if there is anything you can do to make it more comfortable for them. 

5. Define your boundaries

When you telecommute, it can be easy to get lost in your work, putting you at risk of burnout. You need to define your boundaries to support a healthy and sustainable work-life balance.

In addition to creating a physical space, you need to allot your time. It is a good idea to create a clocking in, clocking out routine, so you, and everyone on your team, can take adequate breaks. Research has shown that breaks are an important aspect of productivity. Everyone on your team needs time to leave their work behind for a genuine break.

6. Get some exercise

It is also important to plan some exercise into your day. You're no longer walking from the train station or car to your office or popping out at lunch for a walk to the local sandwich shop, but unless you want to turn into a couch potato, it is important to squeeze in some exercise.

Whether this is some stretches during your break, getting on a stationary bike, or just heading out for a walk, exercise is crucial for your health and productivity. Encourage your employees to take break and to squeeze in some physical activity in those break times or before or after work.

7. Keep your commute

Finally, if you and your team are new to remote working, consider keeping your commute. Although you don't need to spend time sitting in traffic, you can use this time in the day to take a little time for yourself. Some intentional activity, such as reading or light stretching can help you to mentally clock in and clock out.


As you can see, while working from home does present some challenges, it can help you and your workers to become more productive. Although you'll both need to think about the optimal work environment and how to handle tasks, once you get down to working, you should find that you get more done and have less stress with your new flexible schedule.


Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: