Excessive distractions can make employees less productive in the workplace. In this article I’ll outline four examples of distractions caused by the misuse of technology in the workplace and helpful tips for managing them.
Cyberloafing – also known as cyberslacking – is a term that’s used to describe employees engaging in technology distractions in the workplace such as browsing the web during work hours in ways that aren’t related to work.
While a small amount of cyberloafing can help blow off some steam between projects, excessive non-work web browsing can turn a stint of cyberloafing into full-on time theft.
How to manage cyberloafing and technology distractions in the workplace:
The key is to strike a balance between non-work internet use and the employer’s need for their employees to be productive in the workplace. Generally employees are given the opportunity to manage their own productivity and they are trusted to use the internet appropriately, however in some cases the internet becomes a serious productivity block.
Emails and instant messages from team chat platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams can be significant technology distractions in the workplace if employees give into the temptation to respond to them instantly. An inflated sense of urgency to answer emails and instant messages is known as telepressure and it can be a major productivity killer if not addressed.
How to manage telepressure:
Telepressure is incredibly common in the workplace. One in four respondents in a ReportLinker survey said they feel pressure to answer IMs right away, even if they are currently engaged in more important tasks.
This constant context switching can cost as much as 40 percent of a worker’s productivity according to research from the American Psychology Association. By reducing the sense of urgency around emails and instant messages your employees can focus their efforts on the tasks that truly matter rather than being caught up in these technology distractions in the workplace.
Earlier I mentioned how cyberloafing and telepressure contribute to decreased productivity in the workplace. Smartphones take the worst of both of those distractions and place them into the pockets of your employees. A constant stream of notifications on an employee’s cell phone can tempt them to ditch work in favor of making plans for the weekend, chatting with their friends, and playing video games.
How to manage smartphones in the workplace:
Depending on the nature of their roles, cell phone usage in the workplace can also look unprofessional or lead to serious health and safety incidents. Front-line employees that need to be attentive to customers may not be as engaged as they should be and anyone operating sensitive equipment may make a mistake while being distracted. By directly addressing the appropriate use of smartphones in the workplace you can help set reasonable expectations.
A hostile work environment ruins employee engagement and makes them feel unsafe or unwelcome at work. Inappropriate internet usage can contribute to a hostile work environment when it is used to directly harass coworkers or when employees are caught looking at pornography when using the company internet.
How to fight internet harassment in the workplace:
Employers have a duty to ensure that company assets are being used in a respectable manner and that employees are treating their coworkers with respect. When employees are subject to a hostile work environment they are forced to spend their working hours managing undue stress and defending themselves or their coworkers against harassment. By taking employee misconduct seriously you can proactively address these issues before they spread and harm the productivity and wellbeing of your workforce.
Technology can be used productively to accomplish tasks in the workplace, but it can also be abused. By setting clear expectations, monitoring employee internet activity, and working with employees they improve their productivity by fighting these common distractions.