Can Distractions Actually Boost Productivity in the Workplace?
Distractions run wild in the workplace. In fact, a CareerBuilder survey of 2,186 U.S. hiring managers and human resource professionals published in June found that 19 percent of employers participating thought their employees were productive for less than five hours a day.
The reason? Employers blame distractions. So, to boost productivity, they typically try to stamp out anything that looks like one. But that’s not always the best approach. Sometimes, welcoming distractions can actually have a positive impact on productivity. How does that work?
Here’s a look at some common workplace distractions that can actually boost productivity:
Smartphones open up a world of distractions, and employers think their employees are getting lost in all of their alerts, the CareerBuilder survey suggested. Among HR professionals surveyed, 55 percent called cellphones the biggest productivity killer for employees.
While employers may think their workers are busy texting and scrolling through social media, employees tell a different story about cellphone use. Among the 3,031 employees surveyed in the same study, only 10 percent of those who own smartphones said it decreased their productivity at work. In fact, 66 percent said they use it at least several times a day for work.
The truth is, smartphones have become a critical part of work for employees. Work management and communication apps allow employees to get work done wherever they go, and mobile HR tools make administrative tasks easier for everyone. Additionally, to-do lists, work reminders and alerts often live on smartphones. That buzz on a nearby desk could quite possibly be work-related.
Don’t obsess, then, about cell phone policies in your office. Instead, trust employees to use their technology to get their work done efficiently and to allow for work-life balance, to boot.
2. Pets at work
Imagine a busy office. Now, imagine it with pets. While the picture may seem a little crazy (and comical), allowing pets in the office can actually have a positive impact on productivity.
According to a survey conducted by Banfield this past February, 81 percent of HR decision-makers and 67 percent of employees surveyed said that allowing pets in the office increased productivity. In addition, 91 percent of HR professionals and 88 percent of employees said it improved morale. Turns out puppies can reduce stress after all.
While adding furry companions into the workday mix seems like a crazy idea, it makes employees happy and helps to create an environment they want to work in. And happier employees means more engaged and productive ones.
3. Chatty Kathys
The chatty co-worker is a classic workplace distraction. Just when an employee gets focused, here comes Bill from accounting to talk about the big game last night. When the mid-afternoon slump hits, a huddle forms in the hallway to discuss Game of Thrones fan theories.
Just because employees may not be getting any work done during social sessions doesn’t mean they're not a productive time. As work becomes more collaborative, employees need time to build relationships with their co-workers. After all, Globoforce’s Fall 2014 Report found that employees who had quality relationships with their co-workers are more likely to be engaged and happy at work. What’s more, 89 percent said work relationships were important to their overall quality of life.
Create a collaborative work environment, then, that allows employees to chat with their co-workers for brainstorming sessions, project updates or just some team building and non-work-related talk. Chatting with co-workers helps employees take needed breaks, release stress and foster trust and communication. That way, when teams do work together, they’re more productive.
Email is often cited as a major productivity killer, yet everyone continues to use it, and not always happily: 40 percent of 1,400 office workers surveyed by Wrike in October 2015 called email a major productivity roadblock.
The reason email is a big distraction is thaat it encourages multitasking. Employees constantly stop what they are doing to check their inbox and respond to messages. An April 2015 study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology referred to this phenomenon as “telepressure,” or the human urge to quickly respond to emails and messages. The study found that of 303 participants, those who obsessed over responding reported a poorer quality of sleep and more missed workdays due to health problems.
Still, email is a necessary office evil -- for now. The issue today is less about email itself and more about how employees manage their inbox. If employees resist the urge to respond to everything right away, clearing their inbox at designated times can boost productivity. Consider a 2016 study conducted by researchers at the University of California-Irvine, Microsoft Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; it found that employees who checked their email in batches were more productive than those who checked their email as alerts came through.
So, instead of trying to multitask, tackling emails all at once keeps employees in the loop without the constant distraction. Is this a good idea for your office?