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Workplace Distractions and How to Overcome Them

Posted almost 7 years ago by Rob Markwell
Annoyed Office Worker

There are certain aspects of office life that are to be expected; noise from coworkers, phone calls, meetings etc. While unpreventable at times it can cause interruption to workflow.

The New York Times reported on a study that found that ‘a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption, while it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption’. This can have a major impact on productivity, so we’ve looked at the top distractions at work and come up with a few simple solutions for you to try.


Office Noise

Working as a part of a team can be great. You have support, people to bounce ideas off and the feeling of camaraderie can help the day fly by. If you are the type of person that requires a quiet environment for certain tasks, then sitting with a team, or in an open-plan office, where noises from conversations, emails and phone calls happen regularly, you may sometimes feel you’re not working at your optimum.

If you’re in an open-plan office, talk to your line manager; maybe there is a section of the office that is consistently quieter than others that might be better suited to you. If you’re in a smaller office with no possibility of moving asking to use a small meeting room on occasion to get the important, ‘no distractions’ tasks completed can be extremely beneficial. Some environments allow people to plug their headphones in for certain tasks like writing proposals, or honing designs, which can really help with focus.

Remember, everyone has different working styles and it is not possible to stop some everyday office noises that happen. If some noises are too much to deal with consider the above options, otherwise actively work on mentally blocking them out; they will probably fade into the background in time.


Window Seat

Having a seat in the office next to a window can be a wonderful experience, especially if you have a top notch view. However, if you are easily distracted by moving objects in your peripheral or find yourself working on a particularly tough (or mundane!) task that requires full focus, the urge to look outside for a while can be hard to ignore. One simple fix is to pull the blinds down (if your office has them), or to take yourself to another available desk or meeting room to helpfully focus on the task at hand.

However, mini-breaks can re-energise us and it is important for our eyesight to have regular screen breaks, so do take advantage of that view from time to time!



We are fortunate to live in the age of the smartphone. Practically anything you want to do can be done from the tiny device that never leaves your side. While great when you need a ride, are hungry, or want to see what your ex is up to these days,  they’re not good for preventing interruptions to workflow.

Our phones are now programmed to receive notifications at all times during the day which is a major distraction if you see it light up all the time, or emit noise notifications. You might need to be contactable for a number of reasons so switch the phone to vibrate, check your notification settings to make sure you aren’t updated every time a Kardashian uploads a selfie, and place it in your desk. It’s close enough that you’ll hear it should it go off.

If your work provides you with a mobile device then remember it is a WORK phone and you should only receive work based notifications on it which you should definitely pay attention. Save internet scrolling for lunch.



They are an integral part of most jobs, we need emails to communicate both internally and externally, but the steady flow of them throughout the day with the noise and popup notifications can be a major disturbance. And the itch to check can be unavoidable; what if it’s important? Most likely, however, it’s a LinkedIn connection request or a non-urgent internal email and, just like that, you have lost the focus you had.

The quickest and easiest fix is to turn off notifications - a computer with no pop-ups or pings makes a huge difference. Another productivity hack is to schedule ‘email time’ into your day by committing to times in the day to go through them. By doing this you can close your emails, get rid of the different notifications and know that you won’t miss anything as you’ll check them later in the day. If something is truly urgent you are more likely to be called than emailed.


Social Media

According to a poll by The Independent, Britons spend an average of 62 million hours each day on Facebook and Twitter. That is an incredible amount of time spent scrolling through cat videos, gym selfies and pictures of food. Unless your job requires social media activity, there is no real excuse to be on it during work hours. If you do find yourself on social now and again try using the Chrome extension tool ‘DistractOff’. This extension allows you to block websites you frequent that you shouldn't for certain amounts of time in the day, making sure you are focused but free to scroll during lunch.

If part of your daily tasks is to interact with social media then focus on the task at hand. What is the purpose behind using it? The account you are using should be a ‘work’ account. Therefore, if you find yourself distracted by content on social, question the account that is posting it, should your work account be following them? Are they industry relevant? If the answer is no then unfollow them, keep the flow of information you receive as streamlined as possible to avoid distractions and use your personal account to keep up to date with those other profiles.


Tell us how the above techniques work out for you or if there are other things you’ve found that help. Are there other distractions you find difficult at work? Let us know!