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Survey says: workplace distractions affect productivity

September 30th, 2010

Workplace OptionsRALEIGH, NC – Every minute of every work day employees are bombarded with distractions they must work with or around to get things done.

Whether it’s the meeting that runs 30 minutes over, the Blackberry that won’t stop buzzing, office gossip about the newest employees or even family matters, there are a myriad of conflicting matters vying for employees’ attention.

According to a recent survey by Workplace Options, 42 percent of workers are extending their workdays by coming in early or staying late in order to avoid distractions.

But what happens to those who contribute to the constant interruptions? According to the survey, nearly one in four employees (22 percent) are aware of someone in their workplace who has been fired for wasting time in the office, disrupting other employees or partaking in other distractions.

It is estimated that American businesses lose around $650 billion a year through workplace distractions, according to Jonathan Spira, chief analyst of consulting firm Basex, who authored a report called “The Cost of Not Paying Attention: How Interruptions Impact Knowledge Worker Productivity.”

And according to the Workplace Options survey, it’s evident why: more than half of those polled (53 percent) report that distractions in the workplace impact their productivity.

Workplace Options offers some tools to mitigate such distractions, which is why they did the survey.

But, Personally, we think the survey offers some good reasons more companies should consider having at least some employees work from home. The lack of daily commutes, office interactions, and time in hour crunching meetings frequently leads to increases in production and worker satisfaction.

Results from the Workplace Options survey reveal employees are most distracted by some of the following activities in the workplace:

  • Personnel (office romances, water cooler gossip, etc.): 24%
  • Technology (emails, phone calls, social media, internet glitches): 23%
  • Meetings /Luncheons: 12%
  • Surroundings (loud coworkers, music or television noise, lack of privacy): 6%
  • Celebrations (birthdays, baby showers, sports): 4%

“It’s expected that employees will be inundated with plenty of distractions throughout the workday,” said Dean Debnam, chief executive officer at Workplace Options. “The important thing to remember is for employees to find a way to balance their work day and find ways to focus.

For example, if employees have assistance in taking care of their personal issues and family matters, they can concentrate on work related activities while in the office.”

Other noteworthy findings from this survey include:

  • 58 percent of employees feel that having a handheld device increases their productivity.
  • Yet, 35 percent of employees report their handheld device increases distractions during their workday.
  • And 50 percent of those who own handheld devices claim they are an increased distraction in their personal life.
  • 55 percent of employees feel having access to social media at the office is either “somewhat” or a “significant” distraction.

For those who find it more difficult to balance personal issues, technology, and their office surroundings, 33 percent of workers believe it would help their productivity if employers provided work-life benefits aimed at alleviating stress caused by such distractions.

The national survey was conducted by the North Carolina firm of Public Policy Polling, August 6-9, 2010. The survey polled 606 working Americans and has a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percent. Full survey results can be viewed at

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One Response to “Survey says: workplace distractions affect productivity”

  1. Shari A. says:

    Interesting findings that actually pinpoint a dollar amount for workplace distractions. While working from home, of course, reduces commuting time, people I know often admit they can be distracted in the home or feel isolated.

    Another solution would be to allow workers to take advantage of flexible workplaces that provide a professional environment and allow workers to connect with other business professionals. Regus offers a global portfolio of choices and works with businesses of all sizes.

    Right now, we are giving away a professional office for one year in the U.S., which could help reduce office distractions for one person. Contest info can be found at: Visit: for more info.