Long gone are the days of bosses policing who’s hanging around the water cooler a bit too long. These days, American workers have a wide array of distractions at their disposal. Most of the time, they don’t even have to leave their work station to indulge in them. From obsessively checking friends’ Facebook statuses to catching up on the latest celebrity gossip to engaging in online gambling or day trading, most distractions are clearly obstacles when it comes to getting a job done. It seems right, therefore, that we are taught that distractions are to be avoided…most of the time.
The damaging effects of distractions cannot be denied. According to Basex, the average employee spends 28 percent of their time dealing with unnecessary interruptions, followed by “recovery time” to get back on track. That adds up to a total of 2.1 hours per day. Managing workplace interruptions costs American businesses $588 billion per year. According to the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, a person’s IQ falls 10 points when they are constantly fielding emails, text messages and phone calls. That’s the equivalent of losing one full night’s sleep.
Occasionally, however, a distraction can turn out to be a good thing. Here are a couple of ways:
- Wandering about the office, chatting with co-workers, need not be a time waster. On the contrary, casual conversations can turn into brainstorming sessions that lead to new products, marketing campaigns, or workplace programs. Even if your idle chit-chat sessions don’t hold that kind of potential, they can be viewed as powerful networking. You never know when you’ll be on the look-out for a new opportunity—internally or externally—and the person you talk to casually this year may be your connection to a great new job in years to come. Do your best to befriend some key players to bolster your network.
- When you find yourself getting bogged down and losing focus, avoid the temptation to sit there and stare at the computer screen. Rather than looking up lost loves on Facebook, get up and take a walk. The fresh air and exercise will do you some good—both physically, in terms of better health, and mentally as well. Getting your blood moving will aid brain function. You will return refreshed and in a better position to get the job done.
There’s no denying distractions’ ability to eat up valuable time, profits, and creativity. Thus, they can’t be allowed to get out of control. Once in a while, however, it can be helpful to be distracted from one’s work for a short—read, short—while. After all, you know what they say, “All work and no play…”
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