4 Ways to Stop Employees from Getting Distracted


Absenteeism is an obvious problem. But just because your employees are physically present at workplace, it does not mean they are actively contributing. Being present is at least better than not showing up at all, although there is no guarantee that employees are there to do what they’re supposed to do. Distraction from personal emails, phone calls, bothersome coworkers, noises from someone else’s desk or anything else can and will prevent an employee from being 100% at work.

 Anytime an employee is distracted from works, the company suffers. Considering a single notification on smartphone can keep a person out of focus for more than 23 minutes[1], leader has to find ways to get rid (or at least minimize) the problems.

Being present is good, but being at-work is much better

An increasing number of employers have embraced more flexible workspace policies. More frequent breaks and longer lunch time may seem counterproductive at a glance, but employees have better work-life balance because you provide more opportunities to mind their own businesses even when they’re on the clock. As long as they deliver results, work environment policies never have to be overly restrictive. Emphasize on employees’ abilities to complete all tasks listed under the job description rather than on being merely present. With the right technology, it is not impossible that even field workers can deliver reports on time.

For positions where employees have to be present all the time (for example in production or assembly line), more frequent breaks may not be a viable approach. In such situation, revisit the employment policies instead. If you have to force employees to work more hours than they can cope with, they will not be focused all day long anyway. They need downtime to recharge energy and refresh the mind. You want them to be fully at-work when they’re present, so you don’t have to get frustrated by poor performance. Paid sick leave also encourages employees to stay home and recover much faster instead of coming to work in a bad shape.

Keep off the non-work notifications

Technology has changed the way people communicate, both for personal and work-related purposes. Unfortunately sometimes the two get tangled with each other. Personal emails, text messages, and alerts on how many steps you take can be a distraction at workplace – in the same way that work emails ruin family dinner. Notifications on smartphones, especially from social apps, will immediately draw attentions; if the users respond, it would add more minutes to regain focus.

As a leader, you should not dictate what your employees see on their smartphones. However, you have the authority to enforce a rule that minimizes usage of personal devices at work, for example turning off notifications. If they have to check messages, they can do that during the breaks.

Have meetings for important discussions

Regular scheduled meetings are excellent to get feedback, celebrate accomplishment, and address on-going projects. On the downside, mandatory meetings every week can decrease productivity. As long as the organization has good communication practices across departments and throughout all layers of hierarchy, proper delivery process of information does not require scheduled meeting. If scheduled meetings are necessary (for example to improve communication in the first place), make sure it does not take too long. A meeting itself is a distraction that prevents employees from working at their desks or stations.

The point of a meeting should be to address urgent issues or brainstorm new ideas. Also, not every employee is required to be present. Ask an experienced person to represent employees, so they can stay focus on their jobs while the meeting is taking place in another room.


Coach on time management skill

With so many possible distractions at workplace, leaders often have difficulties in maintaining good level of focus among employees. Bear in mind that productivity is built on the foundation of good time management, so teach your employees on how to manage their own schedules. Distractions are unavoidable, and it gets more dangerous in today’s always-connected world. Time management skills are therefore invaluable attributes all leaders (and employees) must possess. Ask employees to set timer on their desks, group similar tasks, or use breaks to check only on important personal notifications and not to play games. You probably can allow employees to leave early (as long as they finish today’s work) to prevent them being distractions to others.

Make good choices and have a great day! Only you get to choose how you feel about it!

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Dr. Paul Gerhardt is a tenured professor of management. He is a diversity and leadership well-respected and trusted trainer who helps organizations get amazing returns on their training investment. Dr. Gerhardt is the author of several publications available on Amazon.com, including Diversity at Work, The Diversity King; Leadership Lucy and the Leadership Handbook. Consider inviting Dr. Paul Gerhardt to do customized leadership or diversity training at your organization. Most organizations find that diversity and leadership training by the right trainer yields a significant instant return on investment. You can get your FREE COPY of the Leadership Handbook by clicking this link: http://bit.ly/LeadershipHandbook


[1] https://lifehacker.com/how-long-it-takes-to-get-back-on-track-after-a-distract-1720708353


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