Workplace Distractions and How to Deal With Them

Think about what distracts you the most at work. Is it music? Gossip? Social media? No matter where you work or what you do, you most likely deal with distractions every day. Not only do these distractions affect you, but they can also turn out to be costly for the company. According to a study by Basex in 2007, distractions cost U.S. businesses around $588 billion per year. No matter what the distraction is, there are ways for you to minimize and  handle them in order to stay productive at work. Below are some of the most common types of workplace distractions.


Although listening to music at work makes the day go faster and the job more enjoyable, you may or may not be allowed to do so depending of what type of job you have. If you work a job that requires full attention to detail, then you shouldn't be listening to music that will distract you. Studies have proven that certain genres help people concentrate, but that is typically limited to instrumental music. Make sure if you do have headphones in during your workday, you are listening to music that will help you focus, not the other way around.


Emails are present in most workplaces, and are often the main communication channel. Even though they are very useful, they are also one of the biggest distractions employees face. The best way to avoid getting distracted by every email you get is to schedule times throughout your day that are designated to checking your inbox and responding to emails. These times can be right when you get to work, before and after lunch, and before you leave for the day. Another useful tip is to turn off your notifications. Most email sites allow you to change this using the settings icon.

Instant Messaging (IM)

Aside from emails, many companies use IM to communicate with each other. The main problem with IM is the sound alerts. Every time you get a new message, there is a “ding” that lets you know someone is messaging you. As soon as people hear the ding, they automatically stop what they are working on and check their IM. If you find that you are getting distracted by IM, consider setting your status as “busy”, and ask your coworkers to respect that as long as it is not urgent. Like emails, you can schedules times throughout your day to check and respond to your IMs.


Employees seek each other for advice, opinions, or just to chat about random topics. There is always a colleague who loves to talk, but how do you deal with them? This is one of the hardest distractions to prevent because it’s hard to say “no” to a co worker who wants to talk with you. If you work in an office that has a door, close it when you are working on important things. This will stop people from casually stopping by and interrupting you. If they knock anyway, then you can explain to them why the door is shut and this way they will avoid knocking on your closed door in the future. If you are in an open environment and have no door, wearing headphones can be an alternative to closing the door. People are less likely to come talk to you if have headphones on. 


We are attached to our phones. We use them for calling, texting, navigating social media, and now even catching Pokemon. In a recent study, Michigan State University found that any time there was an interruption of 4.5 seconds, errors in the workplace tripled. Smartphones are one of the most common distractions in the workplace, so learning how to deal with them is important. Even though it is the hardest solution, shutting your phone off while at work is the most effective way to avoid any distractions. If this is too much for you, then play with your phone settings. Turn off all non-work related notifications, set your phone on silent mode and leave it in your purse or desk drawer, use the “Do Not Disturb” feature, and only check your phone when you need a break from things you are working on. 


If your job requires you to sit in front of a computer all day, then you most likely spend some time navigating the web, which can take up enormous amounts of time from your day. Facebook, Tumblr, Buzzfeed, and Twitter are some of the most visited websites during the day. In order to avoid browsing the internet throughout the day, try checking out news sites as soon as you get into work, so that you are on top of what is going on. After you are done, close your browser and don’t open it again unless it is for a work related matter. If you still find yourself getting distracted, try using some useful softwares, such as Freedom and Anti-Social, that help eliminate online distractions.

We all face distractions on a daily basis while we are at work. They not only lower our productivity, but can potentially affect the whole company. Try several strategies to avoid, minimize, and handle distractions and find which ones work for you the best!