An original study uncovers the top distraction at work

Ugis Briedis 14.01.2020

Let me ask you a question – when was the last time you had a 100% productive 9-to-5 workday? Or when did you last experience a day without any distractions while working?

I’m betting that these types of days don’t occur very often or maybe they don’t even occur at all.

But why? First of all, it’s proven that being 100% productive all day long is virtually impossible. Second, it’s very difficult to avoid any distractions during the day except if you’re in a closed room, without your mobile device and in an extra quiet environment.

In an age when everything around is calling for our attention it is not easy to stay in control.

However, there’s always room for improvement. But to improve it’s important to identify what are the factors that steal our attention while we’re working.

Therefore, DeskTime went on a search for the most popular distraction for office workers worldwide.

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The results

To find out what distracts people while they’re working, DeskTime created a survey asking a single question – what distracts you most when you’re at work?

Several answers were offered but the respondent could only pick one option so we could find the top office distraction. 

In the end, 1334 office workers of various industries and roles participated in the survey and the results were as follows:

The most popular answer was interruptions that include questions from colleagues, walk-ups, and ”ASAP” tasks. 

Imagine, you’re concentrating on a task when a random question from a teammate comes. One of the respondents shared that this is extremely annoying:

“Random questions that require an immediate response are distracting. When that happens too often, it adds up to unproductive time spent trying to remember “what was I about to do now”.”

The runner-up distraction was the office noise (discussions, chatter, typing, sneezing, phone calls, etc.). And the third most popular answer was the Internet or more specifically – getting lost in it.

Other honorable mentions were phone and desktop notifications, personal and relationship issues (including interpersonal relationships at the office) as well as wrong temperature in the office.

most distractive apps at work

Some of the least popular answers were email, bad lightning, cluttered desk and/or disorganized office, meetings, and music (ambient music, office radio, etc.).

From this, we can conclude that external factors aka the environment play a more significant role than internal ones. The only internal factor that’s mentioned as distracting is private relationships inside and outside the office.

The science behind being distracted

According to a survey made by the global marketplace for learning and instruction Udemy, about 70 percent of people feel distracted while they’re at work.

The reasons behind losing focus are more or less the same between various studies – interruptions, background noise, clutter, loud co-workers, etc.

However, the differences occur when studies try to dissect which generation gets more distracted. 

One study found that “Generation Z and Millennials are better able to deal with distractions,” whereas another study claims that Millennials and Gen Zers feel that they’re almost always distracted.

Another interesting difference between generations is seen in regard to how the office is set up. Gen Z and Millennials tend to prefer open offices as this environment allows people to communicate and collaborate more easily. 

This contrast of opinion can only mean that anyone is susceptible to distractions, so there isn’t one single solution that will fit all to help control our focus. However, we can offer you some strategies to try out.

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3 tips on how to avoid being distracted

As the most common distractions have been identified, we’ve compiled a list of tips & tricks to explore when you’re being distracted, so you can ease your way into the bay of productivity.

#1: Turn off background noise

background noise

It’s a fact that background noise can affect your performance at work. From your co-workers conversing too loudly to a loud sneeze at the other end of the room or a new Justin Bieber album you’re just dying NOT to hear.

So, what to do about it? First, you can look for a more quiet place at the office. If this is not possible, you can purchase the best noise-canceling headphones out there and enjoy music that helps you concentrate.

If you don’t have your own personalized work-and-focus playlist, don’t worry. See our YouTube video about how gaming music can help boost your productivity and try to listen to some of the playlists we’ve selected.

#2: Tidy up your workplace

tidy up your workspace

Clutter creates stress. If your table at work is a mess it can make it difficult to concentrate on the tasks you’re doing and take up your energy. No wonder there’s a saying “Tidy desk, tidy mind”. 

For that reason you have to step up your tidiness game and get rid of all the unnecessary rubbish lying around that’s affecting your ability to stay productive.

You can even redecorate. There are plenty of tips and Pinterest boards available to inspire you on how to organize your workspace so it would be a pleasant place for you to be at.

#3: Turn off notifications

turn off notifications

Nowadays, effectively managing your notifications can be considered as a valuable skill due to the fact that they delay our ability to get into the working flow, discourage us to do our best job and, at the end of the day, leave us with no feeling of accomplishment.

But if you’re still too tempted to look at your phone each time it buzzes – turn off the push notifications or your phone entirely. That way you’ll get your peace and will be able to get back to work undisturbedly.

Final words

While we’re at work we should be able to maximize our productivity instead of sitting through the 8-hour workday just to survive.

As people thrive to become better (especially at the beginning of a new year), we have to identify the things that hold us back when it comes to reaching our productivity goals. By doing so we can easily find solutions to our problem.

Overcoming distractions is a challenge. However, if the result is getting the job done in a smaller amount of time, it’s worth putting an effort into avoiding losing focus.

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