These days, employees are faced with an unprecedented onslaught of workplace distractions, chief among them all the apps and digital sideshows that now pervade everyone’s consciousness. With all of these productivity killers, it's no wonder employees complain that it’s often difficult to focus during the workday.
But without the ability to focus, is productivity still possible? Generally speaking, the answer is “not likely,” especially when you throw in office noises and other interruptions (employees making personal calls, equipment breakdowns, etc.). The challenge for employers is finding ways to reduce these common workplace distractions and enable teams to be as productive as possible.
Here are five tips to help curtail distractions that keep workers from doing their best:
1. Keep meetings to a manageable level.
Meetings should have a clear-cut purpose, a defined time-frame and an invitation list that includes only those people who must be there. Sometimes when employees attend “with no real stake in the matter at hand,” they feel obliged to “weigh in at length”—a waste of everyone’s time. Restricting attendance to employees who “can provide helpful input and move the process forward” frees others to get their work done more efficiently.
2. Offer helpful guidance on dealing with email.
The avalanche of emails is probably the single biggest impediment to workplace productivity. In some company cultures, employees are urged to respond ASAP to all email messages—a surefire way to distract and slow down completion of time-sensitive projects.
In these cases, it might prove helpful to provide a written set of policies about how best to deal with this issue. Such polices might include instructing employees to switch off pings or alert noises and suggesting they schedule a couple of set times during the day to check voicemail and email.
3. Involve managers in the fight against workplace distractions.
Employees look to their managers for help with all sorts of workplace issues. So, it makes sense to train them in setting the right example and guiding their teams to overcome distractions.
It’s critical for supervisors to “set the tone by not contributing to office distractions,” notes HR recruitment specialist Jason Hanold.
For example, when employees hear “their boss loudly talking on personal calls, they may feel that it’s acceptable or that management doesn’t truly care about productivity.” Hanold also suggests that supervisors provide tools that help employees “reduce stress and distractions on a personal level.”
4. Offer alternative workplace options.
Does everyone in your workplace have to be at their desks eight hours a day? Is it possible to reduce distractions and boost productivity by offering flexible work arrangements?
Some employees “are most productive surrounded by absolute silence, while others find it stifling,” notes RealStreet.
Consider a reconfiguration of the office layout “to have designated quiet or collaborative spaces” and/or allow employees “to work from home one or two days per week.”
5. Make sure resources are there when employees need them.
In every work setting, certain materials and resources are needed to get jobs done. It can be a major distraction for employees when they run low on (or exhaust) those necessary supplies and have to hunt down someone to get them replenished. Maintaining a well-stocked workplace results in less concern about “employees wasting time and distracting others by tearing the office apart.”