I know the open office concept is all the rage right now. And I’m not opposed to it. I can see the advantages it brings in terms of collaboration and team development. However, it’s important for organizations to realize it can also contribute to workplace distractions. The same is true for technology. I love my tech gadgets and toys as much as the next person, but they can also be distracting.
Udemy sent me their 2018 Workplace Distraction Report and I thought it was a super interesting read. Not necessarily from the standpoint of establishing that the workforce is faced with constant distractions from their work and technology – I think we know that. But the report goes into how people feel when they get distracted. Employees say that constant workplace distractions hurt morale, productivity, and, ultimately, performance. This should be of concern to business leaders everywhere.
The other aspect of the report that I found interesting was that people felt training could help to resolve some of these issues. Is it possible that topics like mindfulness could assist in this area? Other activities that employers could do to help reduce workplace distractions include flexible scheduling and “no meeting” days.
If your organization hasn’t done it already, here are three actions to consider:
- Define cultural norms about noise. What’s noisy in your company? I know people who work with the music playing in the background. They don’t think that’s noisy. Other people do. Companies need to define this up front and set expectations.
- Establish “quiet zones” in the workspace. No one wants to stop employees from sharing a laugh at work. But when a group of employees are having some much-needed fun while someone next to them has their head down trying to finish an important report for a major client, it’s distracting. Designate places where employees can hang out, relax, and not disturb others.
- Give employees the ability to wear noise reduction/blocking headphones. I’m actually hearing about companies that give new hires a “headphone allowance” to pick out a set of work headphones that will help them reduce distractions. I think this has the potential to be a win for everyone.
If you want to see all of the research, you can download Udemy’s 2018 Workplace Distraction Report in its entirely from their website.
Whether you work in an open office, noisy office, or a virtual office, workplace distractions can impact everyone. Organizations need to take steps to ensure employees are able to be productive and perform at a high level.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA18