BUSINESS
12/13/2012 02:46 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2012

Distractions At Work: Employees Increasingly Losing Focus; Some Companies Combating The Problem

With work emails, personal emails, chitchat across open-office layouts and the multiple browser windows employees tend to have open, the workplace is becoming increasingly distracting, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In addition, some companies are acknowledging that too many meetings and a heavy reliance on internal email as a means of communication only aggravates the problem.

Gloria Mark, a professor who studies digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine told the Journal that between digital and human factors, there's typically only three minutes of consistent focus before an employee gets interrupted (or self-interrupts). Mark pointed to studies that have shown it might be 23 minutes before a worker gets back to whatever task he was completing before the interruption occurred.

In an effort to combat the negative effects on productivity, the Journal reports that some companies are trying to minimize the number internal emails by bringing back the phone call, banning devices in meetings or limiting the number of projects a person can take on at once.

Visit the Journal to learn what others are doing to combat the problem.

In addition to costing employees time, distractions cost companies money. A survey released in 2011 found that businesses might lose more than $10 million a year -- or more than $10,000 per employee -- thanks to distractions and poorly designed technology, Fox News reported at the time. Of the 515 people who took the survey, 45 percent reported working interruption-free for 15 minutes at a time, or less. And for 53 percent of respondents, at least an hour a day was taken up by various interruptions.

And it's not just technology that contributes to workers having trouble staying focused: A study by researchers at Cornell University found that low-level noise in open-office plans can end up increasing stress and decreasing the motivation to accomplish tasks.

Still, individual employees can take steps on their own to combat how distractions impact their productivity. Career coach Phyllis Mufson told Forbes that employees should reserve regular blocks of time for work that involves concentration.

"Try using the first hour at work to make headway in your most difficult project. Ask your co-workers for quiet time, and if that is not possible, take your work into a conference room or other quiet space,” Mufson told the outlet.

As The New York Times notes, people are more easily distracted when they're tired or hungry. Taking a walk and sticking to a steady diet can help workers resist the urge to indulge a interruption. According to the report, scheduling rewards for completing tasks is another way to keep on track.

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