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10 Distractions That Kill Workplace Productivity

10 Distractions That Kill Workplace Productivity
Credit: Ismagilov/Shutterstock

While technology may be boosting your productivity in some ways, it's hurting it in others, new research finds.

Smartphones, the Internet, social media and emails are among the 10 biggest workplace productivity killers, finds a study from CareerBuilder. Specifically, more than half of the employers surveyed say the biggest distraction at work comes from employees using their cell phones, with 44 percent saying the same about employees using the Internet.

However, technology can't take all the blame for preventing employees from getting their work done. The study revealed that 37 percent of employers point to office gossip as their biggest productivity killer, while 27 percent say co-workers stopping by to chat accounts for their biggest productivity obstacle.

Overall, the employers surveyed said the biggest productivity killers in the workplace are:

  1. Cellphones/texting
  2. The Internet
  3. Gossip
  4. Social media
  5. Email
  6. Co-workers dropping by
  7. Meetings
  8. Smoke breaks/snack breaks
  9. Noisy co-workers
  10. Sitting in a cubicle

"Between the Internet, cellphones and co-workers, there are so many stimulants in today's workplace, it's easy to see how employees get sidetracked," Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder, said in a statement.

Workplace distractions can lead to some pretty significant consequences. The study discovered that these interruptions can negatively affect quality of work, employee morale and the boss/employee relationships.

Recognizing the difficulties these distractions can cause, nearly three-quarters of employers have taken at least one step to alleviate the problem. The policies they have put into place include blocking certain websites, banning personal calls and cellphone use, instituting set lunch and break times, monitoring email and Internet use, limiting meetings, allowing employees to telecommute, and having an open-space layout instead of cubicles. [The Key to Increasing Productivity? Employee Breaks ]

One of the best ways to limit the productivity killers is for employees to take regular breaks, Haefner said.

"Taking breaks from work throughout the day can actually be good for productivity, enabling the mind to take a break from the job at hand and re-energize you," Haefner said. "The trick is finding the right (work-appropriate) activities that promote, rather than deplete energy."

Haefner offers a few tips for to encourage productivity:

  • Schedule breaks: Encourage employees to take breaks during the day, but be sure they set a definite ending time. This not only gives them something to look forward to, but it also lets them know when it's time to get back to work.
  • Work near productive people: Productivity can be contagious. Seeing how co-workers make themselves productive can be an inspiration on how to similarly act.
  • Be publicly accountable: If employees can't seem to get motivated, try having them post their goals for the day on social media. Making themselves publically accountable will help push them to get their work finished.
  • Take a walk: If workers are having trouble concentrating, have them step outside for a 10- or 20-minute walk. Previous research has shown that light exercise can rejuvenate the brain.

The study was based on surveys of 2,175 hiring and human resources managers across a variety of industries and company sizes.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.