Employees admit to disturbing colleagues when bored at work. Here’s how to prevent it

Guest Author 4.04.2024
Illustration of an office space

Everyone knows that employees distracting each other is bad for business. Even a 15 minute gossip session daily adds up to 65 hours of lost productivity each year per employee. But that’s not all. One study finds that 30% of employees admit to disturbing their colleagues when bored at work. If you take into consideration that it takes on average 23 minutes to get back into the flow of work, then that’s a lot of time spent not working towards business goals.

But why is this happening, and how can a manager safeguard against it?

Let’s dive into why disruptions at work happen, and explore 5 tips on what you can do to prevent it.

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Disruptions at the workplace – are they all bad?

Disruptions at the workplace can take many forms. Most research is devoted to workplace gossip, however that’s not all there is to it. Disruptions can be as simple as asking for help, advice, or discussing internal workplace events – all important aspects of a thriving workplace.

In fact, workplace chit-chat can be beneficial. Human beings are social animals, there is no getting around that fact. Studies suggest that gossiping at work can be a way to fast track a pathway to forming open, productive workplace relationships between coworkers. 

There are, however, downsides.

It may be a simple assumption that one coworker overly socializing with another will only impact the productivity of two employees. In fact, loud conversations may be impacting the work of multiple employees. Fifty eight percent of high performance employees have stated that they need a quieter work environment to stay productive. 

The most pernicious of the distractions, however, happen when employees are bored.

Worker using a balancing board at work

Why employees distract others when bored

Boredom isn’t always bad – innovative solutions, business ideas, and other novelties can be born out of 15 minutes of being bored. But when your boredom is disrupting others’ workflow, it becomes a problem.

But why are employees bored in the first place?

Here are the top 5 reasons:

  1. Lack of motivation (43%)
  2. The work itself is boring (42%)
  3. Waiting on others (40%)
  4. Not enough work (37%)
  5. The work is too easy (25%)

Rates of boredom at work differ between in-office workers, versus remote or hybrid workers. Hybrid and remote workers report lower levels of boredom in general (31%). This is possible because they have the means to entertain themselves and engage in stimulating activities that fall outside of the scope of work.

In-office employees cannot alleviate their boredom because it would be inappropriate or distracting to other employees in the office. Hybrid/remote workers can do whatever they want on company time as long as their work performance goals are met. Here are a few tips to successfully implement remote work within your organization

Managers should note that this can still be construed as time theft, as remote workers are more likely to slack off or not seek supplemental work-related activities once they have completed the bare minimum work that is expected of them.

The benefits of having distracted employees working in remote environments are that these employees are less likely to be a distraction to the workers still in the office. 

5 ways to reduce workplace distractions

1. Consider moving problematic workers to a remote location

Studies show that remote and hybrid workers are less bored and it is harder for them to disrupt other employees. If problematic employees are spread out among the office or to their various remote locations, the remaining office workers will have a clear runway to complete their tasks in a productive office environment.

This approach has a trade off in terms of achieving high levels of productivity. While segregating some employees from the productive office workers, the now remote workers are more likely to abuse their lack of direct management if they are not adequately monitored. 

Pro tip: Using DeskTime for remote employee management provides transparency and accountability when working within a distributed team.

2. Ensure workers are tasked with meaningful assignments

The leading cause of boredom in the workplace is a lack of motivation.

To approach the problem of disruptions in the workplace, try tailoring specific assignments to particular workers.

For example, an overly talkative worker might be well suited to represent your team in interdepartmental meetings rather than working independently.  

A worker hosting a workshop in an office

3. Schedule breaks to rejuvenate your employee’s focus

Studies have shown that the most productive employees function optimally on a 52-17 schedule. Working hard for 52 minutes and then resetting the mind for 17 minutes is the perfect combination for the most productive workers in the world. Try this out in your office and watch the results come in!

Want to keep your team happy?

Time tracking is a great tool to avoid employee burnout.

Find out how!

4. Create an open environment for employees to express their boredom

Varying on demographics, two out of five employees are afraid to tell their bosses that they are bored at work. Employees are afraid of negative repercussions such as being assigned more work. Managers benefit from knowing whether or not their employees are bored at work as this allows them to course correct. 

5. Reconsider the open-plan office

While there are some social benefits of having an open-concept office, studies show that workers in an open office performed 14% worse on cognitive tasks than their peers in cubicles with walls. Social distractions are harming the output of office workers. Consider bringing back walls and cubicle dividers or creating designated distraction-free areas in your office to tamp down on unnecessary social interaction at work. 

A woman working in the office

Distractions are undermining workplace productivity, but there is hope

Using the information provided in this blog post, you can now see how bad workplace distractions have become and how to fix the issue. It may be a daunting task to root out excessive social behavior. However, it is in your best interest to do so, as there are financial consequences for not optimizing the work you get from the employees.

Try using one or more of the tips from this blog to enhance the output of your team. Also, using DeskTime is a great way to monitor employee productivity and how it changes depending on the remote work policies you implement, helping you find the best solution for your team.

This is a guest post by Alex Gifford.

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