As technology progresses and people become more engaged with social media, workplace distractions are inevitable. Some employees are able to maintain a high level of focus while others are seemingly easily distracted by the slightest interruption. Career experts believe that although workplace distractions are commonplace, they do not have to interfere with work. The key to minimizing workplace distractions is to find effective ways to manage them.
Not only do frequent distractions reduce productivity, but they can adversely affect an employee’s mood. Distracted employees tend to use their time less effectively, leading to rushed or incomplete work that may result in disciplinary action. Employees who believe that their boss is unhappy with their performance will tend to become frustrated and apathetic. Many workplace studies have shown that unhappy employees are often trapped in a cycle of poor performance and negative supervisor feedback. The cycle continues until the issues are addressed or the employee leaves the company.
Distractions can hurt a company as well as employee morale, so it’s imperative that HR departments and supervisors work to minimize these distractions. Proactively reducing workplace distractions doesn’t have to be a difficult task. We’ll discuss some easy ways to pinpoint and minimize distractions without alienating employees.
The first step in addressing workplace distractions is to identify the issues. Workplace distractions can range from those that affect the entire office such as loud phone conversations to less-obvious distractions such as using social media, checking emails constantly, or online browsing. The biggest workplace distractions in order of prevalence are co-workers’ conversations, noise from office equipment such as phones and copiers, lengthy or frequent staff meetings, and social media. Employees can also be distracted by phone calls (both business and personal). Moreover, constant messaging and email alerts can make it extremely difficult to focus.
Emails, in particular, can be unavoidable distractions that must be dealt with as soon as possible. However, checking and responding to email does not have to consume an employee’s entire workday. Depending on a supervisor’s preferences, some employees may feel pressured to respond to emails right away, while others who have difficulty organizing their workday may struggle to keep up with other tasks while being attentive to emails at the same time.
The best methods of reducing these distractions must take several factors into account. Some companies have found that allowing employees to have a flexible work schedule has helped to minimize distractions. One example is telecommuting, which by default reduces the number of individuals in the office at any one time. For employees who thrive in a quiet environment, this may be an ideal solution.
Another method of reducing workplace distractions is to implement policies that address the issues directly. If a formal HR policy seems too restrictive, supervisors can share tips with their employees on how to minimize workplace distractions, such as turning off their personal devices during work hours, avoiding long conversations in the hallway or other areas near individual workspaces, or being mindful of co-workers when having phone conversations. Supervisors may want to consider limiting emails sent to staff if they aren’t urgent, since constant emails are a huge distraction. Meetings can also be held at regular, predictable intervals to allow employees to plan for them and reduce the interruptions that come with impromptu meetings.
Gather and Analyze Employee Feedback
One way to find out how employees feel about workplace distractions is to gather relevant feedback. A survey can be sent out to employees to gauge distractions, as well as to brainstorm ideas that may be helpful in fixing the problems.
In order to understand how employees were affected by workplace distractions, Udemy polled 1,000 US office workers. The survey also asked for suggestions on what would reduce these distractions. Nearly 40 percent of the survey participants said that flexible schedules could reduce distractions, while 38 percent felt that providing designated quiet spaces at work was a good solution. Others suggested that management set the tone in the office for what is considered an acceptable noise level.
Provide Easy-To-Implement Solutions Without Micromanaging
When trying to find ways to minimize distractions, some employers begin by monitoring Internet usage or tracking break times, although this often leads to lower morale and decreased productivity. While addressing workplace distractions with policies may be viewed as too restrictive and can give employees the impression that they are being micromanaged, this doesn’t have to be the case. Employers don’t have the ability to control every aspect of an employee’s workday, and it would be futile to attempt to do so. The best way to address distractions is by being transparent about what the issues are and working with employees to come up with resolutions.
Supervisors can set the tone by not contributing to office distractions. If an employee always hears their boss loudly talking on personal calls, they may feel that it’s acceptable or that management doesn’t truly care about productivity. Those in supervisory roles can also give employees tools to help them reduce stress and distractions on a personal level by understanding that not everyone is motivated or distracted by the same things. Show employees how to prioritize tasks, encourage mindfulness at work, and offer tips on staying focused.
Another technique that has been proven to reduce distractions is practicing mindfulness. Sodexo released a Mindfulness at Work Report that analyzed data from nearly 50,000 employees. The report indicated that the implementation of workplace mindfulness programs resulted in a 37 percent reduction in workplace stress. Additionally, employees benefited from improved sleep and greater productivity. Companies that have a problem with work distractions may want to consider instituting a formal mindfulness program. If a formal program is not possible, they should encourage their employees to practice mindfulness during breaks and time off.
While there’s no way to completely eliminate workplace distractions, being mindful of what causes workplace distraction is key in finding ways to reduce it. Employers can help by encouraging activities that reduce distractions, and employees can be proactive by being organized and doing what they can to lessen workplace distractions for others. Through teamwork and management, HR and employees can help everyone to get more accomplished.