Are Distractions Damaging Your Career?


Here’s the facts:  A University of California, Irvine study revealed that employees working in open-plan offices (cubicles or around big tables) were interrupted 63% of their time at work. Employees with offices were interrupted 49% of the time. After each interruption, it took 25 minutes for the cubicle employees and 26 minutes for the office employees to get back on track. However, typically, employees turned to 2.26 OTHER tasks before getting back to the original task from which they had been interrupted. Which means, if each interruption costs you that much time to get back to the original task, it doesn’t take many to eat up your entire working day.

Another study indicates that technology isn’t always the villain, as many people think. The Wall Street Journal reports that face-to-face interruptions account for a third more intrusions than email, voice mail, or phone calls. The challenge is that while we can control our phone and email interruptions, it’s much more difficult – especially when it’s a supervisor – to ignore face-to-face interruptions, because employees don’t want to appear rude.

But more than simply numbers, research done by Bing Lin, at Portland State University indicates that constant interruptions and distractions cause increased exhaustion, physical strain, and anxiety.

The bottom line? In my book, “Jolt! Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing,” I write that in a digital world, distractions and interruptions are here to stay. If you’re not intentional about finding focus, and shaping your work environment to help you minimize these interruptions, your work will suffer, and according to research by Bing Lin at Portland State, your life will suffer as well.

What are the distractions you face daily at the office, and how can you adjust your work environment to find better focus?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Pastorjf

    Interesting. Six out of eight of our church employees work in an open office environment. They are all my direct reports and although there is definitely interaction I would say that they all operate with a high degree of energy and not only is the growing work load accomplished it is done with excellence. Perhaps we are the exception to the rule?

    • I’m thrilled they seem to work together well. However, chances are, they’re experiencing more distractions than you think… :-)

  • Josh Reid

    This is true for all employees – including the boss! I do all the writing for my organization (fundraising letters, etc), and I have to work from home on my writing days, because otherwise I get constantly interrupted at work. – The ‘interruptions’ aren’t bad as such – they are my staff clarifying the direction I’ve given them, so it’s part of my job – but… it’s important to recognize when you DO get interrupted, and then take necessary measures.