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Workers want help managing distractions, survey shows

man looking at cellphone
Photo: gradyreese/iStockphoto

San Francisco — Distractions in the workplace are making most employees frustrated, unhappy and less productive, according to a recent report from Udemy, an online education company.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 full-time U.S. office workers on how distracted they are during work hours, what they are distracted by and how they react to the distractions. The results: 69 percent of workers reported being distracted by multiple sources, including talkative co-workers (80 percent), office noise (70 percent), stressful changes in the workplace (61 percent), meetings (60 meetings) and social media (56 percent).

Among millennials and Generation Z workers – at 74 percent, the most likely age group to describe themselves as distracted at work – the second-leading cause of distraction was smartphones, with 69 percent acknowledging that checking their personal devices interferes with concentration. Further, 36 percent reported they spend two or more hours on their phones at work. Overall, 62 percent of respondents spend about an hour a day on their phones.

Forty-six percent said they are most distracted between noon and 3 p.m.

The distractions are taking an emotional toll, the report states. Thirty-four percent of respondents said they like their job less as a result. Among millennials and Gen Z workers, 46 percent said distractions make them feel unmotivated, 41 percent said distractions cause stress and 22 percent said they believe their careers are being harmed.

However, 70 percent of respondents said training could help them handle distractions more effectively. According to the report, employers should train workers on how to improve their focus, time management skills and adaptability. Workers also can combat distractions by turning off their phones and meditating.

Workers said employers can help by:

  • Allowing flexible schedules and offering remote options
  • Establishing designated quiet places
  • Defining norms for noise and interruptions
  • Scheduling regular “no meetings” days

“Your employees want to be focused, productive and engaged,” states the report, which was published on March 20. “They just need supportive employers that set them up for success. Work with people on flexible solutions for eliminating distractions and, where that’s not realistic, help them master the art of performing despite distractions.”

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