Collaboration software, email, and instant messaging have made communication within the workplace fast and efficient. It has also increased the number of distractions and obstacles to getting work done. According to a Workfront survey, workers are interrupted by notifications and other digital distractions an average of 14 times per day! In addition, workers are repeatedly checking their devices and programs, with the majority checking their communication tools every 6-8 minutes.
Most work requires a degree of deep focus and thought, so the constant demands for a response from communication tools and the distraction of email and messages at your fingertips have a negative effect on productivity in the short and long term.
How Digital Distractions Affect Employees
Losing focus may not seem serious but when you understand how the brain works, the problem is clear. When your brain is at work and interruption occurs, it can take a minimum of 20 minutes to regain focus and resume the previous thought process. That’s with just one interruption. When you add in the multiple distractions of notifications, calls, and pauses to check messages and emails, it adds up and has a major effect on productivity.
The sharp decrease in focus and productivity affects your employees’ individual well-being, too. The frustration of not completing tasks or completing them incorrectly leads to increased stress, anxiety, fatigue, and a general state of low morale.
Defeating Distractions: Top Tips
There is no simple solution to defeating digital distractions, but you can take back control with small steps. Here are three top tips to make a big difference in your workplace focus.
1. Use Automation Tools
Many email systems allow you to set up “email triage.” This sorts emails into different boxes so that priority messages are seen first, and other emails can be dealt with at a later time, improving the efficiency of email time, decreasing stress, and increasing productivity.
It is also important for managers to model the behavior they want from employees. Limit emails to business hours only and encourage employees to model their email strategies after your own.
2. Make Use of the Mute
Notifications of messages, emails, and phone calls constantly pull your focus away, increasing stress and anxiety as you struggle to focus on work. Turn off notifications during work hours and check messages and emails at designated break times instead. You can also establish a set notification for others on your message apps and phone to let them know you are focused on work and when they can reach you.
3. Unplug (Almost) Everywhere
If the temptation to check messages is too much, consider logging out of any nonessential websites or apps, or even deleting them from your device. Simply logging out of social media apps or email can be enough to keep you focused on the job at hand.
Escaping digital distractions at work may seem impossible, but with earnest effort and the tips above in mind, you can improve your focus and productivity easily.