The top 8 office distractions and how to counter them

Productivity research shows 21 million working days lost every month from distractions ranging from browsing the internet to chatting with colleagues. Here is how you can combat them.

If an office worker has ever claimed to remain totally focussed at all times, never succumbing to workplace distractions such as chats with colleagues, social media or holiday hunting, they are lying.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of; we all get a little distracted and our minds wander. It is to be expected given that our modern, Snapchat and Instagram inspired society trains us to only give our attention to something for ten seconds or less.
A generation of workers are growing up with demands for their time high and their attention spans short and this trend has seeped into the rest of the workforce.

It is little wonder that business workers’ focus sometimes shifts from the task at hand, which can be an absolute nightmare for productivity and will give real headaches to managers.

Research from Fellowes suggests the average office worker is distracted every 35 minutes, up to 15 times a day and that half of office workers in the UK admit they are unproductive for up to an hour everyday.

An incredible statistic when you consider that, nationally, that adds up to 21 million days lost to distractions!

How then do you stop this distraction epidemic and bring back the attention of your staff?

Well first, you need to discover what it is that is drawing the attention away from the computer screen. We have compiled the top eight office distractions and offered you some solutions on how to combat them.

The top eight office distractions

Chatting with colleagues

Bonding should be encouraged among staff and we all know that it is frankly futile to try and stop workers from discussing last nights Eastenders episode or the weekends sporting action. Creating a buzz in the office where staff are joking and laughing and forming real relationships is immensely beneficial but the tricky part is not allowing it to get too far.

One solution is to encourage staff to get it out of their system early in the day. Setting a 15-30 minute period at the beginning of the day where employees can discuss everything under the sun and catch up together will let them know that that is the time for dissecting soap operas and not throughout the working day.

Tea breaks

The Great British brew is a staple part of office life and it would be absolute carnage should any employer suggest limitations on tea at work. Instead, encourage staff to cut down on time spent in the kitchen by setting up a rota where one member of staff makes a round of drinks for a department or team. Alternatively you can set up time slots where staff can make their own cuppa’ at their own time. It would be farcical to suggest a regiment of restrictions on tea to a British workforce so tread carefully with these initiatives.

If you don’t want to go down that route, you can invest in tea and coffee machines that will expedite the brew-making process and get your staff back to the desk in no time.

Browsing the internet

There are ways of restricting the access your staff has to the internet which can be a huge drain on time for workers. The length and breadth of the internet is a tempting prospect when staff are hip deep in a difficult task, so blocking social media sites and YouTube from the internet computers can make a big difference.

Again, if you are unwilling to dictate what your staff can look at during work online, make it known that staff can use the internet for whatever purposes they choose during their lunch break or before/after work and that they are trusted to focus on their work and not on the distractions of the latest twitter trend.

IT problems

When switching it on and off again doesn’t work, many British workers will give up and look to other stimulation while they wait for their computer to work again. IT problems can be hard to combat because their are impossible to predict and most of your staff will be unqualified to fix the issue.

Investing in a knowledgable and well equipped IT department can cut down on wasted time from IT problems and it might also be worth teaching your staff basic IT skills so that they can recognise a problem early and fix it themselves, restricting the temptation to get distracted.

Colleagues’ bad habits

There are some things that you can forgive your colleagues, and there are some things that you can’t. Spending nine hours a day in close proximity to people can create a hostile environment where little annoyances can cause big distractions. Make sure to cut down early on employee habits that you can foresee causing an issue with the rest of the staff.

Being too hot

In the peak of summer, heat can be a huge distraction to office workers, particularly as Brits never seem to be prepared for the humidity our summer months bring.

Investing in air conditioning for your offices and making sure that you have ample airflow through the space will make the area more comfortable for working and will stop people from perpetually noting that it is ‘too hot.’

Uncomfortable workstations

Your staff’s health and wellbeing should be your top priority, so making sure that they are comfortable with their working positions is paramount. Ergonomic keyboards, standing desks and calibrated computer screens all go a long way to keeping employees happy and cutting down on distractions.

Uncomfortable chairs

The same thing can be said for office chairs – poor posture and aching muscles can take peoples minds away from the task at hand and impact productivity as well as their own physical health, so investing in comfortable chairs can help boost your workforce in a number of ways.

See also: Creating the perfect working environment – Tips on creating perfect office conditions

Owen Gough

Fred Morissette

Owen Gough is a reporter for He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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