Powerful Advice for Avoiding Distractions in the Workplace

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If you find it difficult to concentrate at work, then something clearly isn’t working.

The office is designed to be a place for work, but often ends up being a place of procrastination. The good news is that there are some common culprits to blame in most situations. By avoiding and eliminating these distractions, you can reclaim productivity and restore the original design and purpose of your office.

Wasting Time at Work: A Corporate Epidemic

Make no mistake about it, workplace distractions are a major epidemic at every level of business. From Fortune 100 organizations all the way down to the mom and pop shops, people are wasting valuable time at work every single day.

According to a study published just last year, 89 percent of people admit to wasting time at work. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 31 percent waste an average of 30 minutes per day
  • 31 percent waste an average of 1 hour per day
  • 16 percent waste an average of 2 hours per day
  • 6 percent waste an average of 3 hours per day
  • 2 percent waste an average of 4 hours per day
  • 2 percent waste an average of 5-plus hours per day

The most surprising takeaway is that four percent of employees waste at least half of the eight-hour workday. That’s astonishing! A whopping 57 percent are wasting at least one hour of the day. For business owners, this is totally unacceptable.

Another independent study from CareerBuilder and Harris showed that the top five time-wasters were talking and texting on cell phones, gossiping, surfing the internet, browsing social media, and taking snack and smoke breaks. Other popular responses included meetings, email, and noisy co-workers.

Something Must be Done

It’s clear that something must be done. It doesn’t matter if you’re the employer or the employee, action needs to be taken. By reclaiming wasted time and focusing on increasing output, you can directly influence your business and improve your career.

Here are some practical tips that anyone can leverage for better results:

1. Enhance Workspace Ergonomics

The setup of your workspace has a major impact on your comfort level, which directly impacts your output and productivity. The goal of office ergonomics is to design a workstation that allows you to be comfortable and properly supported for maximum efficiency and less fatigue. Here are some tips to think about:

  • Make sure you have a comfortable chair that provides adequate back support. You should sit in such a way that you don’t have to slouch, reach, or twist to reach the keyboard or see the screen.
  • Your computer monitor should be directly in front of you with the top at eye level. This prevents you from craning your neck to see the screen.
  • When sitting at your desk, your feet should gently rest on the floor in front of you. If your feet are dangling, then you need to lower your chair to the appropriate position.

There are plenty of other ways to improve the ergonomics of your office, but these are three of the most important. You’ll also want to pay attention to things like lighting, screen glare, and wrist-keyboard alignment.

2. Organize Your Office

Aside from getting your desk, chair, and computer monitor properly optimized for your body, you also need to attend to the organization of your office. A messy office impacts you from a psychological perspective and makes it harder to be productive.

“Go through piles of papers regularly so they don’t build up,” says Jon Fesmire of Storage Front. “Keep things that you don’t need in the office out of the office. This goes for any paperwork that you don’t need on a regular basis, which you may want to put in self-storage.”

It’s also smart to get all of your digital files in place. Try to clear your desktop home screen by creating a systematic file system. A clean desktop screen will make you feel better about yourself and will also make it easier to find documents when you need them.

3. Drown Out Noise

If you work in an office that has an open layout or open-door policy, then you’re all-too familiar with outside noise and how it can impact your concentration and productivity.

“Open doors send an excellent message about collaboration and transparency,” says Patrick J. Skerrett, managing editor for digital media at Harvard Health Publications. “But they are tough on the ears and concentration. I hear the office printer and copier chug away every few minutes. Chats from the conference room and kitchen — both six paces from my door — waft in, along with ringing phones, voices in the hallway, speaker phone conversations, and other sounds of a busy publishing office.”

One of the best tips is to drown out the noise. If allowed, consider putting on a pair of noise cancelling headphones and listening to peaceful music. Another solution is to play some white noise in your office.

4. Cut Down on Emails

One of the biggest distractions in the workplace is email. While you obviously have to answer emails, who says you can’t take a break from them? There are a bunch of different strategies, but here’s one that works for some people: try spending only 10 minutes on email every hour. For the other 50 minutes, log out of your inbox and turn off your notifications. These 10-minute segments are enough to reply to most of your messages and you can return to your other work uninterrupted.

5. Speak Your Mind

Finally, don’t be afraid to speak your mind when situations arise. For example, do you have a co-worker who constantly pops in your office and wants to talk about office gossip or other irrelevant information? They may not realize that you’re being distracted by their presence. Say something like, “Hey, can we talk about this on our lunch break? I’m really swamped and need to get stuff done.”

If you have an open office and noise is unbearable, the reality is that you probably aren’t the only one who feels that way. It’s okay to talk to your boss and ask if there are any practical ways to reduce the noise. Just speak up!

It’s Time to Get Serious About Productivity

If you find it difficult to concentrate at work, then something clearly isn’t working. The office is designed to be a place where you get work done. Somewhere along the line, the purpose of the office was lost.

Business owners need to create better rules and procedures, but the onus ultimately falls on the shoulders of individual departments and their employees. Every employee must make an effort to increase productivity and avoid workplace distractions.

Will you?