Playing with cube

Distractions in the Workplace

Distractions are an increasingly common challenge to deal with in the workplace. Whether it be classic issues like bathroom and smoke breaks, or new distractions such as smartphones and the internet, these time-wasters prevent efficacy in work environments. It is difficult to propose an outright ban on cell phones, for instance, when so much of our life and needs require these devices. You can’t restrict the internet at a company that requires the internet to make sales, for instance, or a phone to call customers. Rather than altering behavior by restricting it, it is often wiser to combat these behaviors with reward systems. Retooling your sales process is essential for success.

Below are some suggestions on how to combat some of the most egregious workplace distractions from both a personal and company-wide perspective. Whether you are looking to change your own behavior or help implement best practices in the office, these tips will help you address some of the basic issues found in the workplace.

Encourage, Don’t Restrict

Companies that focus less on imposing rules to limit these distractions and more on promoting performance tend to have happier work forces, and as a result are more effective. Some companies even reward employees for putting their phones into a bucket, rather than banning them outright. These types of behaviors can be more effective – encouragement has been found to be a better method of teaching than banning.

If something similar to this doesn’t exist in the office already, begin with yourself. On average, people are interrupted every 11 minutes and it takes 25 minutes to refocus on the original task. Against such numbers, how can you get anything done? Rather than fighting distractions outright, set blocks of time you dedicate to completing a task without interruptions. After a 90-period block of time, you can reward yourself with 5 minutes of phone time.

Battling Technological Interruptions

Depending on who you ask, most Americans look at their phone between 50 and 300 times per day. Particularly vexing to Gen Xers is that younger people happen to be on the more extreme edge of this metric. Emails also constitute a large percentage of distractions during the work day. Depending on your line of work, these emails can vary in importance. Sales, for instance, requires email correspondence as a vital lifeline for new leads. In other positions, email takes on lesser importance. Determining how often you must check on emails can help you keep on target.

Whatever age group you fall into, technology has a hook on our culture and is difficult to escape. Most of these tools can also be shut off. Turn off notifications, put your phone on airplane mode, or distance yourself from your devices entirely. The key to managing these distractions is balancing them.

Are Distractions A Good Thing?

In some fields of work, distractions can be a good thing. If you spent all day plugging in numbers to a database without any breaks, you might very well lose your mind! In some creative fields, reorienting your mind with distractions can yield unexpected solutions.

Although it is now widely thought of as fiction, consider the parable of Newton and the apple tree. It is said that Isaac Newton was once sitting under an apple tree when a fruit fell upon his head. This led him to consider how objects are drawn towards each other, resulting in our conception of gravity.

Taking breaks to reorient your mind with other activities can provide you with new ideas for other problems. Although multitasking is typically an inefficient method of working, varying your daily tasks can allow you the space to solve other problems. Break up your day into meaningful segments of work that give you the flexibility to let your subconscious work for you.

Curating Your Distractions

If you can’t control how often you check your phone, you can control what you look at. One of the most distracting parts of the internet is that a lack of cohesive context. Logging on Twitter bombards you with politics, pop culture, gossip, and entertainment – all lacking relation to each other. This discombobulates your mind – it’s one of the principal reasons people are so stressed out these days.

Market research and blogs relating to your field can make a fantastic replacement to this. Not only are you readjusting your mind away from work for a moment, but you are still thinking within the context of your job. This gives you the best of both worlds. You are able to take a break from the task at hand, while continuing to immerse yourself in the task at hand.

Distractions aren’t going away any time soon. The way that you confront them is within your power to change. Take a step towards altering your behavior, and your job performance will improve accordingly.