Increased connectivity and mobile device usage at work has no doubt increased productivity, but is it too much of a good thing?

With managers at companies all over the world grappling with the issue of “digital distractions” at work, many are looking for answers. Here at the APEX of Innovation, we decided to take a closer look at the problem and offer up some solutions.

A recent MIT Sloan Management Review article by Altimeter Principal Analyst Brian Solis looked at the topic, citing a Udemy study that found 62 percent of employees spend an hour a day at work looking at their phones. Interestingly, the study found that office noise and “chatty” workers were still top distractions for all, but for younger workers, in particular, smartphones were the #2 distraction. Stunningly, the study also found that 16 percent of employees say they “almost always feel unfocused.”

Now, the article goes on to report both good news and bad news. According to the Udemy study, the good news is that 70 percent of workers are open to training and education on the issue. The bad news is that only around two-thirds of those surveyed had ever talked about the topic with managers.

So, how can you help your team and employees overcome the almost constant barrage of today’s digital distractions in the workplace?

According to Solis, time blocking work tasks followed by short phone breaks, scaling back on open office spaces in favor of more personal, more private workspaces, and getting managers to lead by example can all help address the problem.

Four tips to help employees focus

A recent Harvard Business Review article also looked at the issue, offering up four tips to help employees focus less on their devices and more on getting the job done. Take a look:

  • Create quiet spaces for mental recharging: Enabling your people to get away from it all, even for short breaks, is beneficial. Dedicated spaces to rest. Meditation pods. Nap pods. All are in practice at innovative companies today.
  • Encourage phone-free breaks: Workers that spend more time on social media at work are less happy. Managers can help by encouraging employees to use breaks for ‘non-digital’ pursuits like meditating, writing a journal, exercising, or connecting with other colleagues.
  • Set the social script for communications: 55 percent of American workers reported checking their email after 11 PM, according to the article. Help change this, leading by example and being explicit on how and when employees are expected to respond.
  • Empower employees to block-out focus time: Employees that have more time for themselves are more energized, friendlier, funnier, and smarter, according to the article. Managers can cultivate this by enabling both physical and mental workspaces and giving employees a “real” break, according to the article.

Are your people able to fight through all the noise, chatter, and distractions in today’s digital world? Start the conversation with your management team now and leverage the tips above to provide help where needed.

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