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Want Better Productivity? Reduce Office Distractions

By Dr. Geri Markel On 

Working From Home Versus Working in an Office

Many employees have enjoyed working from the comforts of their own homes. According to a Gallup poll, about 25 percent of U.S. workers do some, or all of their work from home.  Now the trend may be reversing.  For example, IBM, a leader in the work-from-home option, is now recalling their workers back. The reason?  Research indicates that there is better communication, collaboration, innovation and productivity when working at the same location

But wait. Working in an office setting, especially in shared spaces or cubicles, has its downside; there are so many distractions.  Walk through the corridor of cubicles in any office and you’ll be met with a cacophony of sights and sounds, even smells.  Very few office workers have private offices.

Here’s one manager’s story:

Victor, a high-powered researcher in a manufacturing company, doesn’t complete his reports. Because his work is highly technical, Victor needs to concentrate to ensure its accuracy. When he gets to the office early, no one else is there so he and have quiet time to work. But a soon as his colleagues and the staff shows up, chaos reigns.

Victor is distracted by the constant ring of land and mobile phones, noise from machines and shredders, bits and pieces of conversation, and people passing by.  In addition, he is near a window and can get distracted by outside sights and sounds.

Unaware of Victor’s challenges, his supervisor gets irritated at him. “He’s always here, so why can’t he get the reports done on time?” he asks.

The distraction problem is especially acute since open designs in offices became popular.  Noise is often a neglected aspect of office distraction.  Recent reports discuss the harmful effects of noise on general cognition and health.

How to Keep Focus and Productivity Strong Working in an Office

If you experience distractions around your work area, consider the following tips to reduce distractions and ensure productivity:

  • Reduce distracting sights: For example, sit facing a wall or remove distracting signs or posters.
  • Reduce unnecessary sounds: For example, use earplugs to screen out extraneous noises or use a fan to block out sounds and provide white nose, or purchase a noise cancelling device.
  • Prevent unnecessary interruptions. For example, post a humorous “Do Not Disturb” sign or picture of a clock with moveable hands to indicate when you are available.  Let others know that you are unavailable at certain work times.

Whether you’ve worked in an office or are returning to the office after working at home for a while, realize that needless distractions and interruptions reduce productivity—and increase stress.

Answer the question, “To what degree does my work space contribute to my productivity?”  You have greater control than you think to enhance the conditions of your workspace.  Take the lead.  Discuss with others the ways to arrange workspaces that enhance, rather than impede, productivity.  Despite the shared space challenges, you can help make your office space a productivity haven.


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