Creative Leadership

Surprise! Here’s Your Biggest Distraction At The Office

There’s been plenty written about distractions these days – especially at the office. Everyday workers face a variety of obstacles to focused work that didn’t exist with past generations of employees. Social media, the Internet, mobile phones, text messages and more whittle away the kind of blocked out time that it takes to do great work. But as far back as 2011 a study in the journal “Organization Studies” revealed the single greatest interruption we face at work:

Co-workers. That’s right – other people.  The study discovered that face-to-face interruptions account for one-third more intrusions than email or phone calls (which employees feel more free to defer or ignore.) Other research from the University of California at Irvine revealed employees working in cubicles are interrupted 29% more often than those in private offices, and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day was the peak period for these interruptions.

And these interruptions aren’t cheap. Workers who report frequent interruptions have nearly 10% higher rates of exhaustion and a 4% increase in physical sickness and ailments such as headaches, backaches, and more.

And getting back on task after a distraction is a problem as well. Other research indicates that after an interruption it takes 25-40 minutes to get back to the same level of focus you had before the distraction.

The lesson? Understand the incredible damage to your creativity and productivity distractions and interruptions can cause. Then, be proactive in avoiding them. Whether you hang a sign outside your cubicle or door, wear headphones, find another location for deep focused work, or other alternative, keeping distractions to a minimum can make the difference between success and failure in your career. And for leaders, understand how much these types of face-to-face distractions can undermine an organization’s productivity.

Let our readers know if you’ve developed any other effective ways of blocking distractions or interruptions….

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  1. This is exactly correct. After being forced by federal budget cuts to reside in an eight person cubical people visiting became my biggest problem. I found it very hard to do the deep research I needed to do to mitigate incorrect policy that was keeping us from doing our jobs efficiently. I had to understand and research US Code, Code of Federal Regs, Federal Acquisition Regs, etc.

    I did just what you suggested Phil. I purchased a good pair of noise canceling headphones and listened to calm and christian music at a low volume. That got me back on track. It wasn’t the best in the world but we do what we have to do to get the job done. Great insight and advise Phil.

  2. I’m so embarrassed to say but I was the too talky co-worker, and that’s not a good thing when you’re the church secretary for an already too busy pastor, lol: But “God works all things for good,” because on the same day it kinda’ came out that I was talking too much, lol, my HUBBY also said how I kept talking during his shows, and I was like, “But who do I have to talk to then?!” Long story short, a still small voice reminded me Who. That’s when I then prayed, “Holy Ghost, please help me to keep my mind on Jesus until He comes for me,” and I’ve been devoted to prayer and fasting ever since, for over 6 months now. And I’ve felt joy ever since, except for a handful of times when I stopped praying. And since Luther says prayer is not words, but lifting your heart to God, I realized it was a heart issue when I stopped, so repented and the joy returned. That is called amazing grace. And Jesus making “all things new,” because in the past my husband had once said I was the most despairing person he’d ever met. So, for me to now have experienced joy for over 6 months straight is nothing short of the power of the Holy Ghost. – Kristen Collier 🙂

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