Technology, social media, productivity. Not a good mix, unless you're a community manager.
Indeed, phone vibrations, laptops, and smartwatch notifications have a large potential of distracting employees in the workplace. But to what extent?
This article offers a review of how digital distractions can represent issues for employers and employees. Upon providing an overview of sources of digital distractions, we will formulate solutions so you can overcome these distractions.
Is technology distraction an issue?
As a manager or company head, you should care about the distraction your office creates for many reasons.
Technological, especially digital distractions might influence the profitability of a department but most importantly the well-being of your workers.
The distraction created by technology can cost a company up to $10.000 per worker per year
Many workers, (not only knowledge workers by the way) are forced to multitask which reduces focus, accuracy, and productivity while it might lead to overwhelming feelings
25% of your employees’ time is wasted dealing with information overload
As an employee, you feel the distraction directly but might still underestimate its impact. This is normal: apps you use in your personal time are designed in a way to keep your attention and get 100% of your focus. Indeed, our brains are wired in a way that red numbers, bright notifications, and constant pop-ups captivate our attention and stimulate our reward system.
The downside is, that these could drain the focus and brainpower you need when performing a specific task are completing an assignment.
Here are a few facts on the issue:
We check out phones around 150 times a day. That adds up to 2,5 hours of checking which does not yet include the time we actually spend on social media or replying to messages
Trying to deal with all the distractions results in trying to multitask which some people describe as “ending up doing work twice as long but half as good”
In sum, technology has the potential of robbing us of valuable time. May that be time to work, complete a cool project, or simply relax.
Technology distractions in the workplace
The main technology distractions in the workplace include personal devices such as smartphones and internal company communication tools which can cost companies more than $10,000 annually per worker. Distractions impact productivity as it can take up to 20 minutes to return to the task you were distracted from and another 11 minutes to get back into a productive flow.
We identify the following as the main sources of digital distractions affecting employee productivity in the workplace:
Personal devices such as smartphones and tablets
Company internal communication software
It is impossible to simply remove these distractions. No employee would be happy being micromanaged on the use of personal devices at work. And no co-worker would enjoy working without company software.
We, therefore, drafted 4 tips that can help managers, employees, but also university students prevent devices from impacting their productivity.
4 tips for everyone to reduce technology distractions
By now it is clear that digital distraction in the office should not be silently accepted. Given its high impact potential on productivity, interns, employees, managers, and executives should become aware of how they can each play their part.
Interestingly, there are two schools of thought on how to tackle technology-caused distraction. Psychologist Larry Rosen argues that we should simply drawback from the source of distraction - putting our phones in the drawer for example.
On the other hand, Alexandra Samuel advocates that the smart use of distracting technology is the most effective way to fight distraction.
Most likely the preference for one or the other is based on your individual feeling and maybe both mixed is the right option for you. We, therefore, list tips from both schools of thought.
1. Schedule tech time
Try to only check your phone during a predefined time, once every 30 minutes for example. Put it in a drawer in the meantime because out of sight is out of mind.
Eventually, you can start putting your phone aside for longer periods of time, and start turning the data and Wi-Fi off in the morning and turn them back on in the afternoon for example.
This can have the same habit curve as running: the first 3 to 4 runs can be difficult, but once you push threw, you'll get hooked. There's no better feeling than having a mind free of likes and notifications every morning.
2. Adopt the Pomodoro technique
In our previous article "Music Productivity at Work: What's the Verdict?" we mention Youtube Pomodoro playlists helping employees focus 100% on tasks at hand. StudyMD is one of our favorite playlists to work with and offers different types of musical genres, including Jazz, LoFi, and nature sounds.
As soon as the playlist starts, a timer incorporated into the document goes off, after 45 minutes of work, you get a 15-minute break. A great way to keep your focus and boost your productivity is with music.
3. Work next to productive colleagues
Productivity and motivation can be contagious. Take advantage of those amazing human behavior characteristics! In addition, working near a productive colleague might lead to more human interaction, more knowledge being exchanged, and thus new ideas being created.
Which can be more valuable: a 30-minute talk with a bright, productive colleague or 30 minutes scrolling on social media? We don't judge, that's up to you!
4. Manage your e-mails efficiently
The famous e-mail inboxes. Never empty. Always that unread e-mail staring at you wondering when you're going to give it the attention it needs. Now, in the modern workplace, it's likely not one but dozens of those emails will be staring at you every day. Having that in the back of your mind will definitely affect your focus.
Here are techniques workers can adopt to make e-mail management efficient:
Allocate a specific slot during the day where you read and answer your emails
Set a level of priority for each email: check out deadlines related to each email and use a tag to organize your priorities
Set an auto-response if you're busy working on a project
Most importantly, keep in mind that 90% of the time, it's okay not to answer immediately. It's likely the person who sent you the email is also busy and is not staring at his or her watch waiting for your response. If you work in a healthy business environment, management and your colleagues will understand you can't answer every single email on the same day.
To executives and managers: embrace a company culture that is okay with not answering immediately when it is not necessary. Keep in mind that 44% of employees sleep with their smartphones close by so that they can answer all the time. Show them that that is not necessary.
The solutions to technology distractions in the workplace
In order to create a productive and pleasant business environment, employers and team leaders need to create a company culture that doesn't pressure employees to check and answer e-mails, arguably one of the main sources of interference with their other assignments.
Employees, on the other hand, also need to acknowledge the extent to which their mobile devices impact their focus and take action to prevent messages and social media from negatively impacting their work.