1. Distraction in the workplace (both digital and other forms of distraction) are costing companies billions of dollars in lost opportunity and productivity, not to mention taking a toll on employees health and wellbeing.
2. By limiting work-related emails and communication to work hours, employees can be more engaged and focused when they are actually at work.
Distractions are everywhere, especially in work environments where employees are doing the bulk of their jobs seated in front of computer screens. Just think about what you see when you walk around your own place of business. You see people reading nonwork-related articles online or scanning social media. You see them checking personal email accounts or visiting sites for their favourite stores to check out the deals of the day. You’ll see them working as well, but these distractions are often too much for them to resist when they have constant internet access.
Common sources of digital distraction include:
checking news sites
planning vacations online
paying bills online
Technology is not the only thing to blame. Other factors employees commonly waste time on are:
socializing with colleagues
personal phone conversations
visiting the kitchen, water cooler, or break room
Here are some more interesting numbers to consider:
Three minutes—How frequently the average office worker is interrupted or distracted, according to the University of California, Irvine.
Twenty-three minutes—How long it takes to return to a task after being interrupted, according to the University of California, Irvine.
Eight—Average number of windows open on a worker’s computer at the same time, according to The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory by Torkel Klingberg.
Thirty—Average number of times per hour an office worker checks their email inbox, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
For many companies, all this wasted time results in significant financial losses. According to research published by Basex, a knowledge economy research firm, information overload cost the US economy at least $997 billion per year in reduced productivity and innovation as of 2010.
To be fair, this age of constantly being connected is not just an employee issue. Employers need to accept responsibility for their role in creating and perpetuating the problem. Imagine being out to dinner with the family for a birthday celebration on a Saturday night and getting an email from the boss about a problem you’ll need to address first thing Monday. Most likely, your mood, if not the whole evening, is now ruined. The truth is, managers have no right contacting an employee in the evening or on the weekend, unless it is an emergency, which—let’s be honest—it never is.
The reason so many companies are suffering is not a guessing game; it’s a simple math equation. They are losing money both from an operational standpoint as well as from the drain on employee benefits all this distraction causes. Stressed-out employees are often unhealthier employees. They use more sick days and experience frequent burnout, all of which impacts the bottom line. More importantly, it impacts their overall well-being.
When business leaders understand how distraction affects the workforce, they can make changes to improve everything from overall employee satisfaction to the company’s bottom line. For example, one simple idea is to implement an automatic notification policy on your servers that does not allow emails to be sent or received before 6:00 a.m., after 6:00 p.m., or on the weekend.
Employers and employees working together to monitor the overall effectiveness of everything from meetings to email communications or individual work can enable a widespread improvement in overall effectiveness and a simultaneous improvement in joy and wellness.
Today’s Habit: Eliminate Distractions
Have you determined what your biggest distractors are? This week, make a plan as to how you will eliminate these distractions during work time.
If email is a big distractor, turn off email notifications while you’re trying to get an important task done or during Power Work. If your biggest distractor is socializing with colleagues, close your office door or put on headphones to avoid the temptation. Make a strategy on how you can eliminate the distraction beside each distractor on your list.
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