How to Finesse the 4 Biggest Workplace Distractions

The Internet, social media and mobile devices drive productivity. They are also huge distractions. The solution requires a deft touch, not a hard line.

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By Matt Straz

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A company is only as good as its best employees. Creating a workplace that motivates employees to produce consistent, quality work is critical. That means getting rid of unnecessary distractions.

A CareerBuilder study of 2,100 hiring managers and 3,000 employees released last year found that mobile devices, noisy coworkers, surfing the Internet, social media and impromptu meetings are among the most notorious productivity killers.

Looking to catch these productivity killers red-handed and improve productivity? Here are four of the most common culprits negatively affecting productivity in the workplace today and how to defend against these distractions:

1. Mobile Mark.

We live in a day and age where our mobile devices tend to act as an extension of our bodies. It's no wonder that 50 percent of those surveyed in the aforementioned study believe cell phone use and texting are the primary productivity killers in the workplace.

In fact, people between the ages of 18 and 36 check their phone an average of 43 times per day, according to a survey of 1,800 millennials conducted by web analytics company SDL. Considering the fact that a good chunk of our day is spent in the office, mobile devices create a huge obstacle to maximizing individual performance.

To deal with your office's Mobile Mark, try implementing a no-phone policy during team meetings, brainstorming sessions, presentations and the like. Doing so will discourage phone use and encourage collaboration among coworkers.

As for the texting dilemma, there's only so much employers can do to nip this distraction in the bud. If it becomes an issue, consider using time-tracking software or applications to boost productivity.

Related: How Can I Keep Employees From Texting Too Much?

2. Chatty Cathy.

Noisy neighbors are not only a distraction at home, but in the office. This is especially true for companies that have an open office environment. While an open office design can increase collaboration and engagement, it also breeds the Chatty Cathys of the world. While there's no stopping workplace gossip, employers can minimize it and the resulting negativity.

First and foremost, as an employer, don't take part in negative gossip. When gossip rears its ugly head in the office, steer the conversation to a more appropriate topic. Also, give employees an ample amount of time to take breaks and talk about things unrelated to work (i.e. let them get it out of their systems). If the noisy neighbors still refuse to take the volume down a notch, address the perpetrators individually.

3. Surfin' Scott.

The Internet is drives productivity but is also one of the biggest workplace distractions.'s annual "Wasting Time at Work" survey of more than 750 U.S. workers found that 24 percent of respondents say Google is the biggest online time waster. Employers can spot the Surfin' Scotts of the office by scanning the room for employees scrolling through the Internet with glazed-over eyes.

An extreme, but sometimes necessary, solution is to permanently block certain websites. For those who aren't too keen on extreme solutions like this, encourage employees to use apps, like the Chrome extension StayFocusd, designed to block familiar time-wasting websites when employees are hard at work.

Related: How to Prevent Office Gossip From Ruining Your Business

4. Social Sarah.

Social media is on the "most wanted" list of productivity killers (surprise, surprise). For a lot of industries, however, it is also a necessary part of business, so blocking it altogether is not really an option. That being the case, how can employers keep their employees from turning into Social Sarahs and wasting too much time on social sites?

For starters, keep employees busy. Boredom results in wasted time on social media. Employees who have a lot on their plate for the day will likely spend less time on Twitter and more time completing tasks.

Additionally, be more visible to employees. This doesn't necessarily mean hovering over employees' shoulders, but spending more time on the office floor can help deter time-wasting activities.

The list of productivity killers to be on the watch for is, quite frankly, endless. But taking care of the most common workplace time-wasters can greatly improve individual and overall productivity in the workplace.

Related: Why Banning Facebook In Your Workplace Is a Stupid Move

Matt Straz

Founder and CEO of Namely

Matt Straz is the founder and CEO of Namely, the HR and payroll platform for the world's most exciting companies.

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