Major Distractions At Work and How to Avoid Them To Improve Your Focus

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Do you often give in to distractions at work, only to find yourself staying overtime or struggling to catch up with the lost time? You are not alone in this crowd. But what matters is, to acknowledge what is going on and take measures to counteract it. Of course, there is nothing wrong with entertaining some activities. After all, the demands of the work can be stressful, and having a time-out is indeed necessary. Many times, certain workplace distractions emerge from our very own working habits. Do you use social media in the workplace and get distracted easily? Here’s how to avoid distractions while at work and improve focus?

Common Workplace Distractions and Ways to Avoid Them

How To Avoid Types of Distractions at work-alignthoughts

A national survey Harris Poll conducted in 2015 for CareerBuilder identified the most common workplace distractions. You’ll find them listed below, along with ideas on how to avoid them.

Another survey conducted by Udemy shows that workplace distractions negatively impact:

  • performance
  • productivity
  • potential

By not getting distracted so much at work, you can complete your tasks on time, thereby achieving a healthy work-life balance. Here are some of the most common types of workplace distractions you must stay away from!

1. Irrelevant Meetings

Do you remember coming out of a meeting room not knowing what just happened?

Most of us must have faced that awkward moment when we’re pulled into a meeting that is completely irrelevant to the work we do. Such boring, long, and irrelevant meetings don’t add value to our work.

The only thing they do is distract you from the real work.

A research study shows that only 44% of the time spent in meetings is productive.

Even though there is an unsaid professional obligation to attend such meetings, you can still deal with it by following these steps:

  • Do not accept bad meetings.
  • Inform or educate the person inviting you to such meetings, so that they stop inviting you for such irrelevant meetings in the future.
  • Overcome your fear of missing out. It is okay not to be available at every meeting.

2. Kids – While Working From Home

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In my case, the major source of distraction is the kids. Just imagine trying to do research or write content with a 5-year-old knocking on your door every second or a two-year-old climbing on your lap or pulling on your clothes.

There’s little I can do about my distractions because I chose to work from home for them, even if it sometimes means staying up all night to finish what I couldn’t get done during the day.

However, not all distractions are as cute and unavoidable as mine. To avoid this type of distraction at work, co-ordinate with your partner so that you can work from home effectively.

3. Frequent Phone Browsing

It seems 52% of the survey respondents consider their phone is distracting while at work. I am willing to bet you can recall a couple of instances when you gave in to the urge to take or make a call that wasn’t urgent, or wasted precious time texting or checking your email and social media notifications.

Try to not get distracted at work due to your phone.

Consider turning off the email and social media notifications on your phone in the workplace. Similarly set a schedule to check them. For example, first thing in the morning, while on your commute to work, during your lunch break, and before leaving work.

If you keep getting unimportant but time-eating phone calls, consider activating your voice mail and checking your messages on a schedule or differentiating ringtones by importance and only answering the calls that cannot wait.

4. Online Shopping

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With the worldwide web at their feet, it is no wonder 44% of survey respondents admitted that using the internet distracts them from their work.

Instant amnesia occurs and before you know it, three hours have already elapsed, and you have not worked on your assigned task. Yes, it is nice to know the best smart cars in the market. But it is even better to be mindful of where you are, and that it is important to come up with high-quality work within a few hours.

Online shopping is a very common type of distraction at work. The 2007 Wasting Time Survey found that 34.7% of respondents wastes 1.7 hours within an 8.5-hour workday by surfing the net for personal needs.

Perhaps you get online to look for work-related information and then end up shopping for your favorite shoes.

But the ads distract you, or you remember to search for something you’ve always wanted. One thing leads to the other, and the day goes by without you realizing it. Unless you want your employers to realize that you’re wasting their money, consider cutting back on your use of the internet while at work.

To help yourself, try installing software that can block access to commercial websites unrelated to your job and help you avoid distractions at work.

5. Office Gossip

Only 37% of the survey respondents suggested gossiping keeps them from reaching their full potential at work. However, between us, the percentage is probably higher.

When you start getting a job done, they pop up at your desk for a friendly chat, to take you out for a coffee or a cigarette, to ask for your opinion on something, or to keep you up to date on the latest gossip.

Not a single day passes by without a colleague recounting something spicy, or you sharing something you’ve noticed. Every small detail is like a challenge to keep digging.

Before you know it, you’ve wasted hours talking nonsense.

So, the next time a colleague pops up, politely explain that you have something urgent to finish and you hope they’ll understand that you are not available at the time. Sometimes people disrespect your decisions at work, but you probably shouldn’t care about their reactions.

It is necessary to avoid such co-worker distractions at work and focus on your task to improve productivity.

How do you avoid that? Avoid running into your colleagues and starting such conversation outside of your breaks, and don’t prolong breaks either. You’ll have plenty of time for gossip when you’ve finished your tasks for the day.

Check out the taboo things that you must not say at work!

6. Social Media In The Workplace

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Using social media is the most common type of distraction in the workplace.

Although only 36% of the respondents to the above-cited survey mentioned social media as a distraction, a Pew Research Center survey concluded otherwise.

The organization reported that, according to their findings, 77% of employees are active on social media during their work hours. Out of those, 56% deem social media use as a workplace distraction, and 22% acknowledge that it negatively affects their productivity.

For instance, you can’t help accessing sites likes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linked In. However, with such behavior, the boundary between work and fun becomes small and easy to cross. Keep in mind that professionalism is a matter of self-control.

Many people feel extremely passionate about social networking. They desperately need to update their status, share or upload pictures as often as they can. Especially when your job is closely related to the Internet like online advertising.

Using social media in the workplace can get you in trouble. A survey from 2012 showed that employees spend an average of 1.5 hours a day at the workplace, on social media. The study also states that social media affects productivity in the workplace.

If you are still not convinced how social media hurts your work performance, perhaps consider taking a break from social media while at work.

Anyway, the tons of notifications on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter aren’t helping you to stay focused at your work.

Another tip to avoid these social media distractions at work is to disable desktop notifications. Only check your notifications if you have to, but don’t jump online whenever someone posts something or sends you an instant message. Their post or message will still be there when you finish your work.

7. Travel Planning or Friday Night Plans

This is also one of the frequent types of distractions you come across by seeing ads while browsing at work.

Lately, if you have been wanting to travel, and searched something online, Google shows relevant ads the next time you are online making you more likely to end up distracting you from work.

Before you know, you have already planned your city destinations, and now looking into flight or hotel deals. This is one of the most time-consuming distractions that must be strictly avoided while at work.

See also: Things to do on a Friday night at home

Other Sources of Distraction at Your Workplace

8. Looking And Applying For New Jobs

Other Types of Distraction at Your Workplace

Lastly, searching for new jobs is a type of distraction at work. Whether to some people finding a better job can be very hard, for others working in one place doesn’t provide them with a sufficient monthly income. That is why many employees try to find another place to work.

There is nothing wrong with this until you start to violate your company’s rules and use the office computers to search and apply for other jobs. Not only this is rude and offensive to your boss and organization.

However, it can get you fired the minute anyone figures out what you are doing. Think twice before you open a site for job seekers.

On the other hand, if you already have a new job offer, here is how to negotiate your salary?

9. Playing Games

Solitaire and even that classic Super Mario Brothers are addicting, yet they are good stress relievers. You took a couple of minutes and decided to unwind. But you can’t just let the computer beat you.

It would be such a shame on your part to let a machine outlast you. However, it is more embarrassing to ask for yet another extension to finish a project that has been given to you for several days.

10. Watching YouTube

Another common type of distraction at work is watching videos. Accurate enough, David Cook is hot! Angelina Jolie is tempting, and you just can’t get enough of your favorite series.

All of a sudden you realize that your boss or one of your clients is already watching in intense rage as they wait for you to submit that report. The worst-case scenario is you might end up in prison because of your irresponsible actions.

According to the results of a survey commissioned by Netflix conducted by SurveyMonkey, about 37 percent of respondents said they’ve watched the online streaming service while at work. Companies across the U.S. are starting to prevent their employees from accessing Internet-video services at work.

11. Removing Spams

Spams are here, there and everywhere. You open your email and you are bombarded with spams. You ask yourself which of these messages are legitimate or not. As the organized person that you are, you delete all those unwanted emails.

You carefully read each mail to avoid deleting the legitimate ones. Several hours later, the assignments that you need to finish by the end of the day, pile up like spams.

Get a useful anti-spam program to minimize those unwanted messages.

Or you can create a new email account and immediately inform all your contacts.

12. Chatting With Friends

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You are so busy at work, and you hardly have the time to enjoy the company of your friends. Chatting enables you to reconnect with your personal life. Unfortunately, because of too much delay, the company is placed in uncompromising situations.

Soon you transform into a professional bum, and now you have all the time to chat with your friends. That is the only thing you can do as for the moment for you can hardly afford that occasional party night-outs.

20.3% of the respondents surveyed acknowledged that they spent time chatting with co-workers.

13. Responding Too Many Phone Calls/Messages

This is another type of distraction at work. You cannot possibly ignore these things, most especially in life-threatening scenarios. But oftentimes, the calls and messages you receive are from your sweetie checking on you. You cannot disregard the concerns of these people.

You tell them that you’re okay and the romantic conversation continues. Next, you hang up the phone when suddenly; your supervisor checks your assignments. Now, you feel the pressure and to give assurance, you resort to making up stories and lies. Yes, you beat the deadline, but the result is a mediocre one.

Your client or superior is not satisfied, and you have to start all over again. But here’s the rub, you have to finish it within a shorter time frame. Say hello to your sweetie and don’t be afraid to tell that you’re quite busy. Promise him or her to give a return call right after working hours.

Complete your assignment first then fulfill that promise. The client is happy, and your sweetie loves you even more. This is because you still have the time for him or her despite your hectic schedule.

14.Frequent Breaks

Another common type of distraction at work is prolonged lunch, snack, or smoke breaks.

Usually, things don’t go as planned and the lunch break goes way too long. This can be considered as another great time-waster that managers and team leaders always keep an eye.

Effects of Distractions At Work

According to the responders to the above-discussed survey, over time, distractions lead to:

  • Lower morale, when other colleagues had to help out or take over the tasks they didn’t complete (30%)
  • Compromised employer-employee relationship (25%)
  • Failure to meet milestones (24%)
  • Lost income (21%)

How To Avoid Workplace Distractions?

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Unless you want to experience some of these consequences yourself, my honest advice is that you do something not to get distracted while at work or eliminate your workplace distractions completely.

Cultivate these habits while at work to avoid distractions.

Set deadlines for your tasks and take time for your guilty endeavors when you finish them.

If you have a separate office room, lock yourself in your office or put on some headphones (even if their only purpose is to block the noise). This will prevent passersby from dropping in for a chat.

Next, turn your phone off, leave those emails pile up and focus on your work.  See how it goes and notice the results yourself.

Arrive early to work and start working with little people around. Time management is what will make you a successful and wealthy person. This means getting up early in the morning and arrive at work at least 10 to 30 minutes before your coworkers and the official start of the workday.

It gives you extra time to psyche up for work and plan your day. If you arrive at work late and/or leave early you may not complete your tasks effectively; also, it may make you look irresponsible in your peers’ eyes.

Meditate at your desk or at your favorite corner to clean your thoughts and work with focus.

As you may already know, the best way to solve a problem is to identify its cause and eliminate it.

My Views On Not Getting Distracted At Work

Sometimes, it can be difficult to avoid distractions at work. Even after trying hard not to get distracted, you may fail. You cannot prevent your boss from calling you, emailing you, or dropping by your desk when they need you.

You cannot deter meetings from taking longer than planned, just like you cannot prevent road blockages or congested traffic. When such factors affect your productivity, you can only accept them and recover the lost time or accept the consequences, as I do.

However, when you waste precious time on activities that don’t bring anything in return, you harm your interests, and you undermine your career.

When I don’t have too many projects piling up or too much housework needing to be finished right away, I also waste time on social media, talking to friends, or browsing the web.

However, when I am against the clock, or I have a significant project on my hands, I get help with the girls, turn off my phone and put my headphones on. I don’t get out of my workroom until I’ve finished.

I know it’s not the best approach in the world. I’m always trying to organize my work better and improve my productivity. Just remember, turning off your phone or your app notifications, and postponing a gossip or online shopping session won’t kill you.

It will only help you get your work done better and faster. Your workplace distractions don’t impact only your time and productivity.

Concluding thoughts,

Distractions are inevitable. But one should always remember that time is gold. At the end of the day, be sure that you finish everything rather than bring those works at home. Also, accomplishing something within a day provides a feeling of satisfaction and contentment.

You can enjoy your activities without having to worry about your pending assignments.

Key Takeaways On Distractions at Workplace

  • Workplace distractions negatively impact performance, productivity, and potential. By not getting distracted so much at work, you can complete your tasks on time, thereby achieving a healthy work-life balance.
  • Internet surfing within the workplace interferes with work-life and keeps you working more than required.
  • Using social media in the workplace is the most common type of distraction employees face.
  • Use a spam filter or an anti-spam program to stop being distracted due to spam messages or emails.
  • It is okay to take a break and play a game on your PC or mobile. However, you should know when to stop.
  • Keep a filter on your workplace computer that will restrict you from using social media or streaming videos at the workplace.
  • Disable desktop notifications to avoid distractions from social media, email or messenger, so that you stay focused at work.
  • Make sure your lunch, snack, or smoke breaks doesn’t go way too long leaving you distracted from the actual assignment.
  • Don’t violate your company’s rules by using the office computers to search and apply for other jobs.
  • Office gossip is one of the common types of distraction. Chatting with co-workers enables you to reconnect. But, overdoing it can leave you distracted from your tasks.
  • Avoid answering personal calls at the workplace unless it is an emergency.
  • Distractions are inevitable. But remember, time is money.

How often do you get distracted at work?

Don’t hesitate to share your types of distractions. Also, tell us your ideas on how to avoid distractions at work and the types of distractions you experience in the comments section below.

This way, we can all learn from each other, find solutions to our problems, and get better results in our activity, no matter what it involves.

Mihaela is a sociologist, an English – Romanian translator, the proud mother of two joyful girls and the happy wife of her soul mate. She turned writing into a career in 2010 and has never looked back. She spends her leisure time by cooking healthy foods, reading princess stories, watching movies, playing games in the park, or walking along the Danube.