Limit distraction and increase productivity

How to Limit Distractions in the Workplace and Increase Overall Team Productivity

Looking for some simple and practical solutions to curb distractions in your workplace and maximize overall team productivity? Then we’ve got you covered in this article!

Technology has dramatically shifted workplace productivity in recent years. With increasing access comes excellent benefits including:

  • Widely varied tools and resources
  • Greater interconnectivity
  • Increased efficiency

All these benefits trickle down to the employee and translate to a plush bottom line.

But increased access comes at a cost: workplace distraction.

Employees are now dealing with:

  • Open-plan office structures
  • Incessant social media notifications
  • Chatty co-workers
  • Email notifications throughout the day
  • New technology requiring new skills
  • Endless meetings

Why Employers Should Address Workplace Distractions

Although seemingly trivial, workplace distractions are ultimately quite expensive.

On average, an employee loses at least 31 productive hours each month from office distractions.

Almost all employees report that they have felt the negative impact of distractions at work, but it has also been noted that the effects vary depending on the employees’ generation.

This study shows that 52% of Gen Z respondents feel most productive in a noisy environment or around chatty coworkers, while 60% of baby boomers need a quiet office to be more productive.

But Udemy’s study reveals that 74% of all Gen Z and millennials, who form the majority of today’s workforce, are still distracted at work.

Top distractions revealed from this study include:

  1. Office noise
  2. Smartphones

The result is an increasingly unmotivated, unproductive, stressed, and frustrated workforce.

By tackling workplace distractions and empowering their employees, HR Managers can expect to see:

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Here’s How to Reduce Workplace Distractions and Increase Overall Team Productivity

Make Distracting Requests Inconvenient

Easily distracted employees could simply be unconsciously seeking the variety that’s lacking in their regular roles.

In terms of performance, different employees peak and dip at different times. This is mainly attributed to varied personality types.

The HR Manager should take this challenge as an opportunity to introduce:

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  • Some variety in the team,
  • A standard procedure for handling requests, or
  • A formal gatekeeper to reinforce an existing process.

A gatekeeper can be effective at creating an inconvenient (yet beneficial) barrier to distractions.

Employees are more likely to resolve minor requests independently rather than deal with a long formal process.

Perhaps distracted employees are simply future leaders in need of direction?

The HR manager needs to note that today’s business environment hampers critical leadership skills.

Research shows that 36% of millennials say they spend two or more hours per workday looking at their phones for personal activities. Leadership training could refocus the high performing but easily distracted employee’s energy.

Many modern millennials are already in or on course for management positions.

This emergence necessitates training on how to be a great manager, including requisite soft skills such as:

  • Leadership
  • Team-building 
  • How to give and receive constructive feedback

Handle One Project at a Time

Juggling too many roles at a time is another leading workplace distractor.

Rather than having employees switching from one assignment to the next, the HR manager should rein in focus on singular projects.

This can be done by:

  • Reinforcing the accountability culture from the hiring process
  • Encouraging active breaks between completed tasks and projects
  • Providing feedback on work priorities
  • Visibly and periodically recognizing hard-working teams
  • Creating “no interruption” spaces and times during working hours
  • Introducing daily written goals

Measurable and clearly defined goals create a road map for success, and writing them down creates accountability.

People who write down their goals have been known to have higher chances of following through. The other advantages include:

  • Higher likelihood of stronger, well thought out goals
  • Increased individual effort
  • Stronger focus
  • Increased motivation
  • Higher task engagement and team productivity

Some employees may simply need guidance on how to define their daily goals.

Collaborating with the HR manager, an automated LMS like World Manager can prove beneficial to the employee’s progress in terms of:

  • Built-in customized prompts for new tasks
  • Easily accessible references and resources
  • Periodic reminders for ongoing projects

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Introduce New Learning

With the right training and development, all employees can transform into highly skilled and productive assets.

HR managers should embrace a culture of lifelong learning and encourage their employees to venture beyond their roles.

As the business world becomes more automated, career paths are no longer as linear as they used to be. The use of technology in the current business landscape is undeniable.

But technology can become a distraction if people do not know how to use it.

HR practitioners must get ahead of the curve by facilitating a collaborative effort to enable the employees to master any new software or hardware upgrades.

Through constant communication, the HR manager should share the purpose and intention of any new tools, making sure to align the benefits of these new technologies with the company’s vision and the employee’s goals.

The HR manager should also be open to employees switching gears between teams and functions. The advantages of this tactic include:

  • Cost savings
  • Institutional knowledge retention
  • Fresh, innovative ideas

Using gamification, the HR manager can introduce an element of fun into learning or new training.

Gamification is now viewed as a key adult learning tool because it:

  • Increases overall employee engagement
  • Makes training more enjoyable
  • Allows employees to apply learning directly to their work roles
  • Serves as a dependable feedback loop

Gamification can be used to target employees who lack the intrinsic drive to actively participate by associating learning with the fun of playing games and competing with peers.

When used optimally, it can also show the HR manager which learning areas need more or less focus.

Create a Corporate Culture of Purpose

Beyond the HR manager, the leadership team can be instrumental in reinforcing a culture of purpose in the organization as follows:

The hiring process: Leadership should get involved by learning who each new hire is, their intended job title, and how they fit into the bigger picture.

Daily departmental tasks: Knowing which team members are working on each day gives leadership a better grasp of how each employee is performing and which roles need fine-tuning.

Effective communication: Some employees only meet with leadership during an evaluation or a sit-down. Leadership has to understand what essential elements each employee brings to the table, what makes them indispensable, and what to do if the case is reversed.

Safe working environments: Employees have to know that they work for a company that recognizes and respects their humanity. They should know that failing is an option and that they can, on occasion, rely on other team members for a helping hand.

Leadership should exercise flexibility when dealing with mistakes to help employees learn from those mistakes rather than cultivating a culture of fear and punishment.

Noise has been identified as a key workplace disruptor and 99% of employees agree.

Different office noises including casual chatter, ringing phones, and foot traffic can cause real fatigue and frustration as employees struggle to maintain concentration.

The HR manager can consider acoustic solutions that can accommodate today’s changing employee and workplace setting, e.g.:

  • Noise-canceling headphones for tech teams and writers
  • Spaces that support different cognitive tasks
  • Quiet zones or rooms
  • White noise solutions

Watch Those Emails

Even though they are meant to be productivity tools, emails are among the leading causes of workplace distractions.

Training employees to cut back on excessive email communication leads to a more efficient workforce.

Each time employees shift their attention from one task to another incoming email, the business may lose time and money.

Research has shown that even the briefest of interruptions can disrupt a project to a standstill. As this study found, regaining momentum after an interruption can take people upwards of 20 minutes on average.

McKinsey & Co. saw that even highly-skilled workers spend 28% of their work hours reading and replying to email messages. This number doesn’t account for the more real issue of social media distraction.

Employees should be trained to ward off mental cravings with strategies such as the inbox zero method, in which all emails fall under four categories: Do, Defer, Delegate, or Delete.

The HR manager should create an environment that affirms these statements:

  1. An empty inbox doesn’t necessarily mean a productive day.
  2. Threads belong on social media – less is always more.
  3. If you must answer, use the 2-minute rule.
  4. Folders are necessary.

Permanently Boost Your Office Productivity

A tailored platform like World Manager’s communication tool can help shift work-related conversations from email to a more manageable system.

Overall, every workplace culture has to be defined by its leadership and these simple changes are an excellent starting point.

Book a customized demo with World Manager to learn about tools and resources you can use to limit – and ultimately overcome – distractions in your organization.

Disclaimer: This information is meant to provide general guidelines and should be used as a reference. It may not take into account all relevant local, state or federal laws and is not a legal document. Neither the author nor World Manager will assume any legal liability that may arise from the use of this information.

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