Top Ten Office distractions and what you can do about them

Thursday February 2, 2017

A loudly boiling kettle, clicking high heels, a peculiar laugh, a boiler on the blink. These can all cause annoyance and distraction amongst your workforce.

The productivity of your team is vital to the success of the business, but all too often employees can become distracted and lose valuable time which should be spent working. If this sounds familiar you should help your team identify and neutralise their distractions so that they can get on with their jobs effectively.

Have a walk around your office, look at the environment, listen to the noise levels and observe office interactions. You may be able to spot the problems that lose valuable, productive minutes every day.

Make sure you take action. Listen to concerns and then deal with them! The payoff is that you will be seen as a responsive manager whilst cutting out all the annoyances that prevent staff from getting on with their workloads. A win-win situation.

The Most Common Office Distractions

1. Phones

Unavoidable really, but you can control the volume. Plus encourage teamwork by suggesting times where people can ask to take a break from phone-answering duty if they have something really important to do, with the rest of the team filling in.

2. Meetings

It is remarkable how many organisations fall into this trap, sometimes even having meetings about meetings. This can be an absolute waste of time and energy. Question whether the meeting is necessary, make sure only essential people attend the meeting, set a length of time and stick to it. Not serving tea and coffee is another idea and perhaps even consider remaining standing (where there are no mobility issues!) to keep the time spent in meetings down.

3. An untidy desk

What is the phrase? “A messy house, a messy mind”. Perhaps the same is true of a desk? If your staff have stacks of papers on their desk they will not only have less room to work in, but inevitably items will be lost or not filed away. Their attention may flit between competing piles of paper leading to nothing getting completed! How about a clean desk policy and a conversation about how they organise their daily tasks? Conversely, Albert Einstein famously quipped, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

4. Loud talkers

There is always (at least) one who likes the office over the road to hear what he has to say. In an open plan office this can really grate and disturb concentration. How about setting a room aside in which staff can have longer phone conversations, allowing the use of headphones at work and most importantly raising the issue with the culprit (see difficult conversations blog from a couple of weeks ago).

5. Unexpected visitors

Clients dropping by without notice or colleagues stopping off for breaks and a gossip can be disruptive. There is not a huge amount you can do about the clients, but you can encourage staff not to distract each other (without being a killjoy and expecting everyone to be head down, not talking the whole day!)

6. Constant emails

A problem with modern life for us all. But suggest that email is closed down or at the very least, notifications are turned off whilst specific tasks are being done.

We all think we have to respond to email immediately, but you can set different expectations. Discuss with staff what the expectations are in different situations and certainly address emailing at evenings and weekends. These spread like wildfire through staff teams if left unchecked. Set a good example yourself!

7. Tea rounds

Depending on where the kitchen is and how many staff are in the office, this could cause a kerfuffle throughout the day. Shouting tea or coffee orders across the office, the same person getting lumbered with the task, kettles boiling and tea cups clinking. How about ensuring that everyone’s tea or coffee order is stuck up in the kitchen, and encourage your teams to share the tea duties.

8. Office gossip

Whilst it is great that staff get on and chat about their lives and social events, you do not want this to degenerate into idle or poisonous gossip. Make it very clear in any training about bullying and conduct at work, that this is not acceptable.

9. People typing loudly

Extremely annoying. As with loud talkers address the issue with the heavy-handed typist. If all else fails look for a soft touch keyboard!

10. Environment

Too hot, too cold, flashing office strip lights, a door that slams, all of these and more can distract and annoy your staff. You have Health and Safety to consider when it comes to the temperature and everything else should be fixed as soon as it goes wrong. Get that screwdriver out!

Is there any that we have missed? What is your biggest office annoyance?

For staff training, policies or difficult conversations The HR Dept can help create a harmonious and happy workforce. Just give us a call!

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