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Distracted Workers Cost U.S. Businesses $650 Billion a Year

stadium-art-02 Credit: Dreamstime.com

Is that handheld device you bring to the office a toy or a productive business tool? It all depends on whether you’re a focused user or a distracted abuser, according to a new survey.

And there are plenty of the latter, according to the research by Workplace Options, a provider of work-life services for employees, found. More than half the workers polled (53 percent) reported that distractions in the workplace affect their productivity. Those distractions cost American businesses an estimated $650 billion annually, co-author Jonathan Spira said.

There’s one glaring paradox in the results: While handheld devices give, they also take away.

Nearly 60 percent of workers feel that having a handheld device increases their productivity. Yet 35 percent claim these devices increase distractions during the workday and 50 percent say they have a similar effect on their personal lives.

And if you mix handhelds in the office with social media, you get a perfect storm of distraction. More than half of employees (55 percent) feel that having access to social media at the office is either “somewhat” or a “significant” distraction.

All this distraction is taking a personal toll as well as dinging the corporate bottom line, the survey found.  To avoid workplace distractions, 42 percent of workers are extending their workdays by coming in early or staying late in order to avoid distractions. And nearly one in four employees (22 percent) knows of someone in their workplace who has been fired for wasting time in the office, disruption other employees or partaking in other distractions.

“It’s expected that employees will be inundated with plenty of distractions throughout the workday,” said Dean Debnam, chief executive of Workplace Options.  “The important thing is to remember is for employees to find a way to balance their workday and find ways to focus.”

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and held a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.