Working in the Age of Interruption: Office Distractions and the Solutions

There have been many articles detailing the rise of the millennials and the distraction technology can cause within the workplace. In an increasingly accessible world, there is no escape from the tech. It’s also becoming more of the norm to be available 24/7, with the majority of us sleeping with a smart phone next to our bed or sometimes, within our sleeping grasp. Naturally this persistently available distraction can be a big problem for the modern workplace. What can we do about them?

1. The Phone

The Problem:

A Western Washington university study has shown that when people are multi-tasking between a social interaction and a mobile phone, they’re engaged in a ‘divided attention task.’ This means you are generally doing both things more poorly than if you did one of them.

Solution:

Put it away for the important stuff.

Unless you are using your phone as part of your presentation, then it shouldn’t be out to distract you. Especially not at meetings. Check it regularly enough to assure people you haven’t died at your desk, but remember it can suck away time as much as attention.

2. The Chatter

The Problem

The more people are exposed to said information, the more likely it is that they will talk about it. Factor in a supposed shorter attention span and you have a high risk of a topic turning into a full blown discussion.

Solution:

Save it for the water cooler.

Okay, the water cooler is a worn out stereotype, but the point of the matter is timing. Ration your discussions. If you see something that sparks your interest, work for another half hour and then enjoy it with a colleague. It’ll help keep your work in perspective with your down time.

3. Social Media

The problem

It’s a remarkable tool for marketing, networking and gathering knowledge, but it is a time-consuming black pit in terms of employee engagement. Even working in a position where social media is essential to your job, it can be very difficult to separate work-related posts and topics from the distraction of your personal newsfeed. Even if those distractions are educational.

The solution

This is very similar to point 2. If you find that an article sparks your interest but doesn’t have relevance to your day to day task, open the link in another tab or bookmark it and work for an hour. When you feel fatigued with work, rejuvenate your brain with that article about virtual reality windscreens on cars (my most recent distraction).

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