“The average worker is bombarded by constant distraction: email, slack chats, chats, text messages, Facebook messages, Instagram live, Snapchat notifications, loud co-workers” (Murphy, 2016). We all think these distractions won’t cost much and that it’s easy to get back to work afterwards. However, workplace productivity coach Marsha Egan states that “It takes the average person about four minutes to recover from any interruption,” she said. “It’s hard for people to pick up exactly where they were” (as cited by Poppick, 2016). The distractions and recovery time decrease daily productivity, which leads to missed deadlines and less profits, which can affect employee morale; it becomes a vicious cycle that can destroy a business. Thankfully, you can take steps to eliminate these distractions and improve productivity.
Plan, organize, and schedule your days and weeks. “Establish office “focus time” for certain hours of the day or days of the week where everyone agrees not to bother or distract people” (Eckfeldt, 2017). These hours or days, preferably both, does not have to be consistent. “Schedule your day so that you’re working on projects that require the greatest amount of focus during naturally distraction-less times. If you have flexible hours, consider coming in an hour early to get some quiet time before everyone else arrives” (Eckfeldt, 2017). For instance, you can establish “focus time” between 9am to 12 noon and 1pm to 5pm on Mondays and have it between 8am to 9:30am, 10am to 12 noon, 1pm to 3pm, and 3:30pm to 5pm on Tuesdays. We’re still a bit distracted from our weekends, so the extra hour at the start of the day allows for catching up and refocusing on work. A fixed focus time can become monotonous, which can often lead to boredom and decreased productivity, so scheduling it differently every day, every week can help decrease monotony.
Avoid procrastination because “I’ll do it later” often becomes “never.” People procrastinate because they are overwhelmed by their tasks, so you need to make the tasks less overwhelming. “Breakdown big or difficult task into smaller and easier first steps to kick start your engagement and focus” (Eckfeldt, 2017). When their mind is set to finishing just one small goal, they accomplish more tasks; but it still takes a toll, so you need to keep motivation up. “Set mini goals and rewards for completing focused work sessions throughout the day” (Eckfeldt, 2017). What makes your employees more engaged and motivated to work? Offer small treats as rewards; what’s a bar of chocolate compared to increased productivity and more profit?
Beware of technology, but don’t be too cautious. Most companies block social media or even internet access. But employees have their personal phones, which can still access the internet. “We are all guilty of allowing ourselves to be on call. We work, but we keep our email open in another browser and check it every time we look up. We answer text messages on our phone the minute we receive the notification. Setting blocks of time to check your email allows you to regain control over your schedule and, therefore, your productivity.” (Ferguson, 2017). In other words, during “focus time,” go “off the grid.” Personal phones should be inaccessible during focus time; allow access during breaks. Having access to these sites and contact with the outside world for brief moments can jump start their work when it becomes tedious or overwhelming. When these steps are part of your company culture, you have a fun working environment that encourages hard work while still allowing social fulfilment. Happy employees are productive employees.