How to Help Your Team Avoid All Sorts of Distractions

by Calvin on May 12, 2021

in Articles

No matter how hard you and your team tried to focus on the work ahead, there are always going to be distractions that will offset the whole crew. Sometimes these distractions are benign and exterior, such as EMS sirens but at other times they are intrinsically and individual.

Whatever the cause of the distraction is, there is always room to help your team fight them, ensuring productivity levels don’t take a hit.

Digital distractions are the easiest to get rid of

If your team uses computers all the time, then they are susceptible to digital distractions. These include everything from constantly checking their Instagram feed to annoying notifications from a task management app.

Essentially, while people are hard at work, they shouldn’t be distracted by pop-ups. Many work management apps have the “silent” option, so be sure to turn it on. When it comes to social media platforms, you can actually restrict access to them on the computers in the office.

“Do not disturb”

Hotel guests can hang the “do not disturb” sign whenever they like, so why shouldn’t your team have the same privilege. Since every person works at a different pace, they should have individual times when others wouldn’t disturb them. Heck, you could even make the sign we’ve mentioned.

Furthermore, there could be “no meetings” days, when your staff knows they won’t be invited in for a long meeting that would drag on for a full hour. The best days for this are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Hold brief meeting

Speaking of business meetings they should be kept short, as these are the times when folks are not working, i.e. their workflow is interrupted. Although they serve a clear organizational purpose, meetings are considered a distraction for individual workers.

For this reason, you should plan out meetings on a weekly basis and put the schedule on a (virtual) notice board. The only exception are emergency meetings, of course. The meetings you do hold should be as brief as possible and to the point.

Overloading won’t do your team any good

It is good if your company has many contracts with clients but it’s not good to rain down work on your employees. Namely, if you keep assigning them new tasks before they have had the chance to finish old ones, they will overstretch their abilities.

Old and new jobs shouldn’t be mixed because they are distractions to one another. Each staff member knows that there is a new folder waiting for them, so there is no need to constantly remind them of this. This way, no workers will fall into the snare of multitasking.

Beware of information overload

Apart from being swamped with files, workers can easily become distracted if you bombard them with a lot of information over a short time span. This usually occurs to new hires who have a lot to learn during the first couple of weeks on the job.

In this aspect, technology might be to blame, because all the guides and online tutorials are overwhelming when you have to go through them in a single go. If there is a lot you want to confer to your team, stretch out that information over a period of several days or weeks.

Flexibility and individualism

As stated earlier, each team member is a different persona with their own work preferences. Some people find it impossible to function as humans before they have had their morning coffee, while others like to get at 5 AM and sit behind the computers right away.

You should respect the different personalities of your workers by being a flexible employer. This means allowing folks to arrive in the office from 6 AM to 9 AM, for example. Also, you can introduce working from home if there are team members who believe they will be more productive in that way.

Isn’t working from home too distracting?

The common myth has it that working from home is more distracting than working from an office. Although this is true for many people, there is no general rule. Some workers find it easier to work from home, mainly because they have set up a home office that is aimed at battling distractions.

First of all, they have set up “camp” in a separate room (the study) or they have cornered off their section of the house (this is the case in small apartments). Strong lights, reliable Wi-Fi signal, and plenty of plants are extra features of a productive home office.

The outside world

Working near a window, whether in an office or back at home can be distracting. Namely, you do get a lot of natural light from the windows but then again, people often find it more interesting to watch and listen to a fire truck than o focus on the work ahead.

Instead of moving the desks away from windows, you can install motorized blinds that regulate what your team can see on the outside. Moreover, blinds regulate the amount of sunlight the office gets, so they can go down on sunny days or go up on a gloomy October day.

Longer, not shorter breaks

In the modern business world, short breaks have become a hit. However, they are a breeding ground for distractions, as chatting with co-workers, checking the Facebook feed, and texting all take place during short breaks.

On the other hand, when your team takes longer breaks, they have the time to properly unwind and not think about work. Preparing a meal and playing Ping-Pong are great ways to relax and return to the desk energized.

Essentially, during short breaks, workers waste time on various distractions, while longer breaks are ideal for mental and physical rehanging. In order for a break to be considered a long one, it has to last longer than 30 minutes.

The quality of rest

We have mentioned several activities workers can engage in while on a long break. However, the lounge area and the playroom have to be properly equipped. In order for the fun activities inside the office not to serve as a distraction, workers should choose the way they rest.

In Japan, for example, it’s perfectly acceptable to fall asleep at work. What is more, company management promotes sleep pods where Japanese workers can doze off for a bit.

You can have a comfy couch in the lounge area if some folks like a power nap or you can install the latest entertainment system if other team members are into gaming.

Did you know there are distraction blocking apps?

We have mentioned at the beginning that you have the prerogative to block social media platforms at work computers. This is achieved by installing various distraction blocking apps that often work on mobile devices too.

The end goal of blocking an app isn’t to police your team but to teach them discipline and demonstrate to them that social media platforms are a huge distraction. After a certain period passes, you can unblock some pages to test the willpower of your employees.

The design of the office

In an open-plan office, it is hard to avoid distractions. That’s why office design plays a major role in helping workers focus and stay productive. The less interaction your team has while completing individual tasks, the better.

Common areas, such as hallways and the kitchen are ideal for hanging out, so the social aspect of teamwork won’t suffer. Furthermore, offices and cubicles have solid soundproofing, so workers won’t be bothered by office sounds, such as the printer working or folks chatting.

When it comes to office design, it’s important you let every team member arrange the desk the way they like. Furthermore, you should give workers complimentary headsets if they express the need for them. Some people even wear pinhole glasses to avoid getting distracted.

The formal fight again office distractions

There are many policies in place in your company but do you have an anti-distraction policy? Yes, you have heard us right, the fight for productivity isn’t purely an informal one, as there are formal ways to deal with the issue.

By helping your workers avoid all sorts of distractions, you are boosting productivity, so it becomes evident why you quire a policy.

As part of the policy, one person would be assigned with monitoring the occurrence of distractions which they would report to senior management. Moreover, prospective employees would be introduced to the policy even before you hire them, so they know what to expect in advance.

Being on a task rather than being present

In Zen Buddhism, living in the moment is one of the imperatives. However, you don’t want team members who are focus on the present moment but rather on the tasks ahead.

When an employee walks through the door in the morning (flexible hours, remember), they are expected to be productive to the best of their abilities that day. You don’t want zombies in the office who are physically present but their minds are someplace else.

As you have seen from the numerous examples listed above, office distractions can be done away with. However, your team members cannot do this on their own, as they need help from their management in terms of office design and various amenities.

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