5 Workplace Distractions That Can Kill Productivity

Multiple studies reveal that the work hours in India are one of the highest in the world, with virtually no time to spare for leisure activities or to hone a craft outside the workspace. While the sheer volume of output expected from each employee is colossal, other things like workplace distractions add to lengthening an already long work day.

We’ve often come across disgruntled employees complaining about not being compensated for extra working hours. Yet, their daily wage seems to take a hit when arriving at work late. Although about work, a constant flood of emails sent throughout the day is considered one of the most significant reasons contributing to workplace distractions. 

Almost everyone, even the one who practices deep work, gets distracted a few times a day. 

Interesting facts about workplace distractions:

  • Around 56 distractions per day
  • It takes around two hours to regroup or refocus on any given day
  • Distractions can cause up to three times more errors 

You might also be interested to read: Technology In The Workplace Improves Employee Engagement And Loyalty

Benefits of reducing workplace distractions

  • 75% of the respondents in a study admitted feeling more productive.
  • 57% said they were motivated to bring their A-Game.
  • 51% felt more confident about completing their tasks. 

Risks of overworking

Distractions at work almost always contribute to longer working hours. When the hours add up, it can be detrimental to both physical and mental health, which may subsequently lead to emotional exhaustion.

Stress and burnout can also cause lower rates of job satisfaction. Many believe that working longer hours is directly proportional to output quality. On the contrary, it can have the opposite effect and may lead to a lack of productivity. Longer work hours also make it hard to find the elusive “me-time”, making it harder to achieve a work-life balance.

Unhealthy workplaces distractions and how to tackle them

1. Smartphones: The number one cause of distractions in the workplace is smartphones. According to a research by CareerBuilder, 55% of the respondents in a survey ascribed mobile phone usage and texting/messaging as the leading cause of them being distracted at work. Little things like these can be disruptive, whether a notification from a personal message or a reminder to pay your bills.

The solution: Prioritise work first, setting micro deadlines for each task. Keep your phone in aeroplane mode. If you think an emergency may occur with the ones you love, only switch off your internet and Wifi services. Set time aside solely for smartphone usage but set a limit. Successful people all over get things done by practising “Deep Work”.

2. Internet: 41% of the participants in a survey attributed the internet as their leading cause of distraction at work (Research by CareerBuilder). However, there is no escape from it. A majority of us depend on the internet for our daily work. As the pandemic gave rise to fluid workspaces and styles, it is now hard to fathom a work day without the ease of the internet. 

The solution: The trick is to compartmentalise. It’s pretty tempting to hop into an eCommerce website when responding to a work-related email. Stick physical notes on your desk to remind yourself that it’s not the ideal time to shop online. Set privacy barriers for yourself and websites that you visit often. Time blocking is also an excellent way to fight the urge to use the internet. 

3. Chatty coworkers: Conversations in the workplace are unavoidable, and it’s easy to become a part of them without realising it. Some noisy coworkers consistently break the peace for those around them, leading to distractions every few minutes. If someone engages you in a conversation, remember that it’s okay to ask them to come back at a later time. Most of us feel inexplicable guilt while doing so. 

The solution: Be eloquent with how you communicate how busy you are. Here are a few alternatives you can try out:

  • I’m currently trying to beat a pressing deadline. Can we catch up for lunch? 
  • I’d love to help you, but can you give me some time? 
  • I’ve already committed to delivering this project in the next two hours. Can we talk sometime in the evening? 
  • My schedule is hectic today. Can we talk tomorrow? 

4. Multitasking: In today’s fast-paced environment, all employees are expected to stay one step ahead of the curve while also juggling numerous tasks and responsibilities. If you’ve believed that multitasking is a time-saving technique, think again. One study found that only 2.5% of people can effectively multitask. It naturally begs the question—will there be more errors?

The solution: It’s simple. Stop multitasking. But if that option is not available, learn how to multitask better. First and foremost, be honest with yourself and accept your limits. Work on fortifying your willpower and concentrate better. Spend at least 15 minutes daily meditation, as it will help you focus better. Finally, club-related tasks together and eliminate the most challenging task first.

5. A messy desk: We’ve often heard that Albert Einstein typically kept a cluttered desk and that a messy desk is a sign of a genius. However, it may be the opposite. A cluttered desk may create unconscious mental distractions. A study showed that those with a messy desk are more likely to be neurotic in their behaviour and also procrastinate more. Most importantly, the more items on your desk, the more distractions. 

The solution: Keep only essentials at arm’s length. If you must decorate your desk, find minimalist pieces that bring you joy and a sense of calm.

Identifying the leading causes of distractions at work is just scratching the surface. The real task is to devise a plan and strategy to tackle each disruption at a time and ensure that these issues don’t surface again. Companies should speak to employees individually to find out what other entities distract them at work; together, they may find a solution to make the workplace more peaceful and productive.


  • The most common workplace distractions and tips on how to tackle them | Clockify | June 9, 2022
  • Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work | Cleveland Clinic | March 10, 2021
  • Why always working long hours is ruining your productivity | Betterup | June 9, 2021 
  • The 7 Workplace Distractions That Are Unhealthy For Employees | Total Wellness | August 11, 2022
  • 10 Distractions That Kill Workplace Productivity | Business News Daily | August 4, 2022
  • 8 Polite Ways To Say “I’m Busy Right Now | Grammarhow
  • Why a cluttered desk kills your productivity–and how to fix it | MSNBC | January 14, 2019

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