As ubiquitous as digital technology is in today’s society, it’s hard to ignore some of the friction that it creates. In the workplace, digital distractions are a huge topic of conversation among project managers, employers, and the employees themselves. Is there a solution for minimizing the negatives?
Majority of American Employees Feel Distracted by Tech at Work
According to the Workplace Distraction Report by Udemy, there’s a strong correlation between increased levels of distraction and decreased productivity, and technology is one of the most pervasive distractions in the modern workplace.
The Udemy report found that more than one-third of millennials use their phones for personal activities up to two hours per workday. Overall, 69 percent of full-time employees report being distracted (and technology – such as social media – is one of the primary culprits).
How Employers Can Combat Tech Distractions
Technology isn’t the enemy. For employers and managers, the solution isn’t to ban technology and revert back to archaic business practices with pen and paper. Instead, it’s all about developing proactive strategies and guidelines that give employees the chance to use technology efficiently and without unnecessary distraction. Here are some suggestions:
- Model Appropriate Behavior
“Workers take their cues from their leader,” management consultant Stacey Staaterman says. “If the leader is multi-tasking and checking email while in meetings, so will the team. If the leader responds to email 24/7, so will the team. The leader should set the tone for a healthy, balanced relationship with technology, so the team embodies a best practice where technology is a tool, not a distraction.”
Don’t expect employees to heed any rule that you don’t commit to yourself. Commit to limiting your own tech usage and digital consumption and employees will follow your lead.
- Remove Devices From Meetings
You’re going to get some major pushback if you try to make your business tech-free. First off, it’s not really possible in today’s business climate. Secondly, there will be some major resentment among employees. You can, however, establish tech free zones that yield tremendous benefit.
For example, remove devices from meetings. Tell employees to leave computers, tablets, and smartphones behind. Legal pads and pens are the only necessary accessories. This will eliminate distractions, heighten focus, and may even lead to shorter meeting times.
- Rethink BYOD
As you know, your business needs a BYOD policy in place. You can’t afford to let employees use their devices to access work-related documents, data, and software without addressing the dos and don’ts. But beyond security, think about how personal devices impact productivity.
With personal devices on hand at all times, workers are exposed to an onslaught of text messages, personal emails, social media notifications, phone calls, and guilty pleasures (like addicting video games and time-killing apps).
It’s okay to permit personal devices, but have some rules regarding how and when employees can use them. And when rules are broken, follow through with consequences. This is the only way to show your employees you’re serious.
- Discourage Notifications
Notifications may be helpful in your personal life, but nothing distracts an employee in the workplace quite like the rings and dings of text messages, phone calls, and tweets.
Encourage employees to disable notifications while at work (including vibrations). This doesn’t mean they can’t check their devices, but it does make them less likely to get distracted in the middle of a task.
- Reward Productivity
Many employees resort to technology as a distraction when they’re bored. If they lack motivation at work, they’re more likely to pick up their phone and play a game or scroll through their Facebook newsfeed. You can counteract this by rewarding productivity.
Consider creating competitions, contests, and challenges that require full focus and buy-in from employees. This little bit of additional incentive will make employees less prone to pointless distractions.
Striking a Healthy Balance
There’s a fine line between using technology efficiently and letting it be a distraction that inhibits productivity and creates friction. Employers that understand the challenges can develop smarter approaches that leverage the positives of digital technology while simultaneously mitigating the risks.