A recent survey from harmon.ie, the social e-mail and collaboration software company, looked into workplace interruptions and found that 57% are digitally derived. This was a wide ranging classification covering everything from processing e-mails to Facebook and personal web searches, but as a headline finding it got many in the media (social and traditional) excitedly pointing the figure at social networking.
To put into context, these workplace interruptions lead to over half of us losing an hour or more a day, which in turn costs businesses £3,277.50 a year per employee.
I downloaded the full survey (it’s free, you can do it here) and found that for all the furore over social networking wasting our time only 9% of people felt ‘Facebook and personal webs searches’ were a distraction.
So putting aside distinctions between digital, electronic and traditional, what actions cause the bulk of distractions? Which tool really is the baddie?
Guess what…it’s the PHONE!
Yep 28% of us find the phone to be the biggest cause of interruption. And number 2? E-mail, of course! Another 23% of us find our working day interrupted dealing with e-mail.
Now if you add in ‘talking to colleagues’ (10%) and ‘ad-hoc internal meetings’ (5%) we get a staggering 66% – two thirds of all workplace interruptions caused by communication and organisational inefficiencies.
Here’s an idea…let’s not ban social media, let’s ban the phone, e-mail and internal meetings!
Continuing with the report there were some interesting stats on how these interruptions lead to us having difficulty working and also affect our ability to be productive. On top of the cost element of lost time, many reported information overload, missed deadlines, lost business and conflicts with colleagues, all in turn probably leading to greater loss of revenue and confidence.
We’re getting ruder too! Two thirds of us ‘tune out’ of in-person meetings to answer mobiles, send texts, check e-mails or update.
Despite all of this there’s one thing that seems to drive us to distraction more than anything else. Searching for documents!
We spend 30 minutes a day looking for documents. That’s 16 days a year. Almost as much as our holiday allowances.
Where are these missing documents? Well 76% of us spend the time searching our e-mail inboxes, following that our desktop and then file server or shared workspace.
It seems that we each e-mail 2 or more documents a day to an average of 5 people, effectively creating 10 new documents each day, which get stored across multiple locations, with a lot of us leaving them in our e-mail inboxes.
So what are companies doing to try and minimise these distractions and boost productivity?
The vast majority are introducing practices to ease the e-mail/phone distractions including:
- Reading e-mails in batches
- Disconnecting from phone/e-mail alerts for a few hours a day
- Initiating working outside the office
- And there’s also a No e-mail Friday!
As for actual policies? Well about 50% of businesses are blocking access to social media networks.
With most lost time down to phone, e-mail, meetings and poor use of the storage facilities that technology allows us, I think it’s quite possible that those businesses are looking in the wrong place to make savings and boost productivity.
What distracts you most, and what policies/strategies are you using to deal with them?