Sources of distraction are abundant in a busy modern office, being generated by everything from workplace technology to personal matters to other people. Even something as simple as being seated in direct sight of an overly-bright lamp can be enough to dampen employee productivity, but which among these various influences are the most widespread, and which are costing business the most?

A recent survey conducted by Clarendon London sought to answer this very question by asking 2,000 UK office workers to reveal their own greatest cause of distraction and lost productivity throughout a typical working day. The results are both somewhat surprising and potentially alarming, as the survey revealed that the leading cause of distractions for 20.3% of respondents is their colleagues.

Specifically, distraction from colleagues comes in the form of workplace gossip, repeated questions and queries, and personal conversations.

The second most prevalent source of distractions in the office is cited to be the use of mobile phones. As we discussed in a previous article, getting the right balance is important here as some may require the use of a mobile phone for work purposes. Occasionally allowing personal calls and the like can also be beneficial in some circumstances, but with 19.2% of survey respondents naming mobile phone use as their leading cause of distractions you must be careful in ensuring that employees don’t abuse this privilege and thereby lessen their productivity through distraction.

Social media comes in third with 11.1% of respondents naming such activities as a leading source of distraction. Many companies allow their staff to quickly hop on their preferred social network for a couple minutes here and there, serving as a welcome break from their work, but if left unchecked this can add up to a lot of lost time. Facebook for example have specifically designed their site to keep people immersed and continuously scrolling, and so avoiding this trap is paramount.

Personal emails along with clients and customers discussing off-work topics rounded out the top 5, being named by 10.6% and 8.6% of respondents respectively. Radio came in sixth at 4.5%.

James Brockbank, a spokesperson speaking on behalf of Clarendon London, said of the results, “It came as a surprise to find that over a fifth of those who responded cite their colleagues as their biggest distraction and cause of underperformance on tasks and duties. Mobile phones and social media perhaps don’t come as so much of a shock, however it goes to show that employers need to take the time and allocate the right resources to ensure that employees don’t bend the rules too much when it comes to talking amongst themselves in work time and the fact that workplace gossip really does exist and can contribute to, over the course of a year, hundreds of working hours lost.”

While outright banning the aforementioned activities is unlikely to yield positive results, the survey does indicate that employers and designers alike need to take steps towards cutting down on costly distractions in the workplace, lest businesses end up suffering for it down the line.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.
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