Skip to main content
Join Now

< Back to All

Distracted workers – the cause might surprise you

March 29, 2018

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner

A new study recently released by Udemy showed how distracted employees are during work hours, how they’re responding to distractions, and the price of distraction for employers. The research found a strong correlation between increased levels of distraction, decreased productivity, and a lack of proper training at work.  But what is causing all this distraction at work?  It might not be what you think.

The top sources of employee distraction include: chatty coworkers (80%), office noise (70%), feeling overwhelmed by changes at work (61%), and social media (56%). Meetings were also cited as a source of distraction by 60%, more than social media. 

So, what many organizations look at as creating productivity, employees view as a distraction – meetings.  Not only do 60% of employees consider meetings an overall distraction to their work, but meetings themselves also suffer from distractions and interruptions. 

Causes of Meeting Disruptions:

Small talk and office gossip 54%
Side discussion about other projects 45%
Late arrivals/Early departures 37%
Technology/connectivity problems33%

To solve this, many organizations now devote one day per week as a “no meeting” day.  It’s also important not to overbook employees with too many meetings and to keep meeting on track and to the point in order to avoid them being a distraction.
Surprisingly not the number one distraction, social media does play a part in workplace distractions.  Most survey respondents (58%) said they don’t need social media to do their jobs, but they still can’t make it through the day without it. When asked to rank various social media sites and communication tools by degree of distraction, Facebook came in first (65%), followed distantly by Instagram (9%), Snapchat (7%), and Twitter (7%).  

Even higher than social media in workplace distraction is workplace noise.  40% think that flexible/remote work options can reduce workplace distraction.  52% say they are more productive when working remotely and not in a noisy office.  This is especially true in open office environments.

In addition to recognizing how workplace distraction can hurt productivity and diminish quality of work, companies need to be aware of the damage to employee morale and retention. Among millennials and Generation Z, 22% feel distractions prevent them from reaching their full potential and advancing in their careers, and overall, 34% say they like their jobs less as a result.

When asked what impact workplace distraction has on employees, they answered:
Aren’t performing as well as they should 54% 
Are significantly less productive 50% 
Not able to reach full potential  20%

What’s the solution?
70% of employees agree that training could help them learn to focus and manage their time better, but 66% have never brought this up to their managers. Soft skills training on topics ranging from productivity hacks to time management, combined with training on how to use communication tools efficiently, can help employees stay focused and engaged.  42% say feeling empowered to learn new skills would make them more engaged.  “It’s shocking that 54% of employees attribute their underperformance to workplace distractions, but it’s also clear that companies have the power to change that statistic by investing in training. By embracing a learning culture and prioritizing training and development, businesses can help develop employees that keep up with nonstop technology and are competitive, competent, and engaged,” says Darren Shimkus, general manager for Udemy for Business.

The Udemy study made the following conclusions:

  • Don’t just train on functionality; train on smart, efficient usage in the context of other available tools
  • Train on soft skills like how to maintain focus, time management, adaptability, etc., that will help employees stay productive in an ever-changing work environment
  • Learn how to lead and participate in effective meetings so they don’t succumb to another set of distractions
  • Acknowledge the real challenges of open offices and provide options for quiet spaces and remote work

Employers should eliminate or reduce distractions to the best of their ability, but also provide support, flexibility, and training to help employees to stay focused.

Share On: