Procurement · 11 March 2016

The worst office distractions – and how you can avoid them

office distractions
Some 43 per of workers have headed to social networks when they should have been working

The office is a positive minefield of potential diversions – recent research carried out by Office Genie found the average UK worker spends 48 minutes every day distracted on the web.

That may not sound too bad, but it works out at around £88bn in wasted working hours over the course of a year. So office distractions are clearly big news, and big money! But how can you avoid them? We’ve listed the most enticing distractions, and how you might conquer them.

The web

With so many people spending so much time online there is ample opportunity to be distracted. There are all sorts of diversions out there, but the following are the worst culprits.

  • Social media: Some 43 per of respondents said they often head to social networks when they should be working – so the likes of Twitter and Facebook could have a lot of wasted time to answer for.
  • Online shopping: Coming in second, 39 per cent of people admitted to shopping online while at work. The prospect of a bargain might be appealing for individuals – but it could well be costing businesses.
  • News: It’s pretty hard to avoid news sites, particularly with many roles requiring at least a faint grasp of what’s going on in the world. So it’s little surprise some 34 per cent of respondents said they headed to news sites when they should be working.

So what can you do? Bosses may well be tempted to enforce more heavy-handed policies, such as monitoring their employee’s browsing history, but this rarely solves any problems and can just create an atmosphere of mistrust.

The best option is for employers to clearly outline what is expected of staff, but also be flexible. If employees want to take advantage of a limited-time sale, then offer them flexible working patterns that allows for this, whilst ensuring they can make the time up later.

Noise

To open-plan or not to open-plan? That is the question for many office designers. Depending on what you read, an open-plan office can either boost or hinder productivity. Generally they can indeed be more vocal affairs, and while this can create a buzz and boost energy, it can also be distracting.

Of course, while the traditional cubicled layout may involve fewer distractions, a lack of personal interaction can lower engagement and, in turn, productivity as well.

There is probably no right answer, although issues can be remedied by creating different areas in a workplace that are suitable for the different tasks carried out. Small meeting rooms (or ‘pods’) can be good for phone calls, while a quiet working area can be beneficial, as can a more informal “creative” meeting room.

Everyone else

Even the most charming colleagues can sometimes be a distraction too many. Of course we’d never recommend anyone become the office recluse, nor refuse to help a co-worker, but there might be times when you can find yourself in-demand and unproductive.

Again, there are a number of solutions – not least a quiet or private working area as mentioned above. But it could also be beneficial for people to consider signing off instant messengers for a period or even working from home; some tasks are just better suited to the quiet of a good home office. And, failing all this, a pair of headphones can go a very long way.

If you need a change of scenery to help you concentrate, don’t miss this guide to alternative working spaces.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Peter Ames is the head of strategy for Office Genie, the first desk space marketplace in the UK – under the umbrella of Genie Ventures (a digital marketing and e-commerce company). The site is responsible for letting out millions of pounds worth of space to the country's small businesses and freelancers.

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