The Business-Technology Weave

May 19 2011   12:05PM GMT

Yikes: Survey Says Distractions Cost Big $$$

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott


Many people get distracted at work.  No, seriously, they really do.  It was hard for me to believe at first, too.  Once I “get to it,” I’m hard at it, focused, and efficient.  Further, it’s hard for me to stop working…  I know you’re the same way.


But it seems that for many others, distractions are a recurring nuisance, and these folks are susceptible to them.  Huh.


According to software company (formerly Mainsoft) and uSamp (a polling company), a 1000 member firm wastes $10 million per year due to the distractions of social media, e-mail, and badly designed software applications.


This blinding news comes from a survey of 515 white collar workers.  It seems that more than half of them waste at least an hour a day:  60% of this waste is due to interruptions from electronic devices and e-mails (if these are work related, are they really “interruptions”?), and the remaining 40% is phone calls and talking to colleagues.  I dunno – I had an office back in my pre-consulting days – simply closed my door.  I dimly remember working in a cube or two way back when.  I also remember saying, “Sorry Fred, I’m really crunching on something just now.  Can we cycle past the front desk to see what Linda is wearing a little later?” 


As to these interruptions:  Phone etiquette demanded the answer of calls.  E-mails were routine too.


Apparently, according to the study, two-thirds of people space out at meetings, reading voicemail and checking devices.  Here’s a simple solution:  Unless expecting something critical, instruct folks in the meeting to leave devices in their holsters.  (I don’t recommend turning them off, due to possible emergency notifications from family, etc.).  Make it a part of new employee orientation to mention respect for meetings, speakers, etc., and what the expectations for behavior are.


I work as a consultant now, but my office days are relatively recent, and of course I consult in offices similar to the ones I used to work in.  Everyone needs a mental break, and whether that’s sauntering down to the kitchen for coffee, soda or snack, and a little tete-a-tete with whomever else has to space out for a couple minutes, I’m not sure much has changed.


Hire solid employees, set expectations, explain work, distribute work fairly and evenly, and I think things are going to be just fine.


Stay sensible out there.    :^ )


NP:  Feeling Good, Gerry Mulligan,

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