The biggest workplace distractions – and how to conquer them

Picture this scene: you’ve arrived at the office nice and early, a hot coffee on your desk and fingers poised over the keyboard. You’re ready to work and ready to smash it. But before you can start, laughter and loud conversation breaks out, your phone starts to ping with Facebook notifications, someone’s talking about TV spoilers and you’ve been offered a brew.

Those are just a few of the interruptions that can plague your work on a daily basis. But what exactly distracts the workers of the UK?

Office design expert, Diamond Interiors, conducted a survey asking more than 1,500 people what their biggest workplace distraction was. Here’s what the results had to say:

  • Just over a quarter of people (26%) said it was due to a busy or noisy office
  • 22% said it was due to social media browsing throughout the day
  • 15% blamed gossiping with their colleagues
  • Coming in closely behind at 14% was non-work related chat with colleagues, such as TV shows
  • 11% of people said they got distracted by dealing with personal issues
  • 10% said their vice was snacks and brew runs to the kitchen

With those results in mind, let’s take a more in-depth look at these distractions and how you as an employee can avoid them as much as possible.

Dealing with noise

As you can see from the results above, a noisy office was the number one distraction amongst survey respondents. Noise is inevitable, but in an open plan environment, things can get even worse, so let’s look at some solutions.

  1. Wearing headphones with some music can be the perfect way to block out distracting noise all around you, as long as you’re working on a solo project. It’s the ideal way to focus if you’re at your desk and really need to get in the zone for a couple of hours. If you find music distracts you even more, opt for noise-cancelling headphones instead.
  2. If you work in an open plan office or a place that is a little more open to you moving around, try ‘hot desking’ to work in a new environment for a change of space. Head into an empty meeting room, ask to borrow a colleague’s office or even see if you can get into a nearby coffee shop to escape.

Social media

As an employer, you may be tempted to just ban access to social media across the board and monitor everyone’s computer access, but we’d actually advise against that. Hear us out. Monitoring creates an air of distrust and resentment in the office and banning your employees from browsing Facebook will only make them want to go on it more. And don’t forget that phones have internet now.

As an employee, however, there’s plenty you can do to resist the timeline temptation. Here are some top tips:

  1. Turn off your alerts and push notifications. Resisting social media can be hard enough at times, but it becomes even trickier when your phone keeps buzzing and pinging every five minutes. You probably won’t even miss the apps once they stop sounding for your attention.
  2. FOMO is the biggest challenge to overcome, so instead of banning yourself from social media altogether, give yourself set times throughout the day to check your accounts and notifications. Breaks are an important part of the working day and can actually help to keep your productivity at a high.
  3. If all else fails, hit the off switch for a few hours when you really need to focus and leave scrolling for your lunch breaks. You never know, cutting back on these kinds of distractions could even give you the valuable time back that you’ve needed.
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Colleagues and brew runs

You can’t pick your family and it’s the same for your coworkers. When you spend around eight hours a day with people, you’re guaranteed to become friends and want to share things from your life and catch up on the latest happenings on TV. Game of Thrones, anyone?

It’s easy to let conversations run away, and with the invention of instant messengers designed for the office, like Slack, before you know it the whole day has gone by.

Solve two problems in one go by combining your chat times with brew making. When you feel like getting a drink, ask your colleagues if they’d like to join you. That way you can get all your conversations about anything and everything out of the way and quench your thirst at the same time.

Dealing with personal issues

We all try to put on our ‘work hat’ when we enter the office, but sometimes things are going to crop up in your personal life that are bound to have an impact on you and make it difficult to separate things. But there are still ways to make it through the day without getting too distracted by outside problems.

The first thing to do is let your manager know what’s going on outside of work. They might not be able to help directly but they could arrange for you to have some extra time off, an afternoon or two here or there, and excuse you if you need to take phone calls during work time. Then set yourself some digital boundaries like we’ve discussed above. Check emails and messages at specific times or put it on ‘do not disturb’ mode for a few hours.

Finally, try and compartmentalise your mindset. It’ll be hard, but really strive to make a commitment that, while you are at work, you will only focus on your work. Try and put your issues in a box and only open it when you leave the office.

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