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Posted on 06.02.2011

What’s Distracting You?

Survey Estimates Electronic Distractions Cost Thousands per Employee in Lost Productivity Trends in communications and business practices continuously evolve; even bad ones. A survey conducted in March for harmon.ie, a provider of social email software, reveals modern trends in electronic distractions that diminish productivity. One of the most interesting findings relates to an increasingly common addition that psychologists call “online compulsive disorder.” The survey found this addiction to web-based activity is pervasive in the workplace and is also impacting our personal lives. It found, for example, that two out of three people will tune out of a face-to-face meeting to communicate digitally with someone else. And 65 percent of those surveyed under age 40 said they stay digitally connected even in bed, at least sometimes. Most workplace distractions today are electronic rather than traditional activities like phone calls or conversations with co-workers.  While the survey found processing emails and email alerts constituted 23 percent of the electronic distractions, toggling between multiple applications, windows and tabs, and using multiple devices at the same time contribute to the problem. Another significant drain on productivity is “document chaos,” with users surveyed wasting on average 30 minutes a day searching for documents. The two leading locations people go to find lost documents do not include file servers; email and computer desktops are the first places people look, at 76 percent and 69 percent respectively. Sadly, the survey indicates that 45 percent of today’s workers can’t work more than 15 minutes without being interrupted. What’s the cost of all this distraction? The survey results estimate an hour of wasted productivity at an average salary of $30 per hour translates to a loss of $10,375 per person per year, not to mention the impact on work quality and both personal and professional relationships. Strategies respondents said they’re using to try and limit distractions include reading emails in batches, working outside the office, or disconnecting from electronic and phone distractions for a few hours a day. To combat distraction, some employers block access to public social and media networks. Others use corporate policies or track online usage patterns. Unfortunately, only a quarter said they provide training to their employees to address productivity issues. As communicators, we know today’s online resources and social media platforms have created a new universe of opportunities to engage and influence stakeholders – both our own and those of our clients. In this like anything else, however, to maximize those opportunities without diminishing productivity requires balance. What’s distracting you?  If you live in our home state of Tennessee, it might be the buzz of the cicada, but more likely, the source of your distraction is an electronic one.

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