What is the cost of distraction within the workplace? Do the math… if it takes approximately 20-ish minutes to return to the point of focus prior to a distraction, social media continues to increase our level of distraction, well you get the picture. Ongoing distractions impact our ability to concentrate. We live in a world that is fully aware of this problem, creating terms like continuous partial attention (CPA), and apps to deal with it. Continual distraction is bad for not just workplace productivity and profit, it is bad for employee health and wellness too.
“We have known for a long time that repeated interruptions affect concentration. In 2005, research carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.” (Source: “The Lost Art of Concentration”)
Dr. Wilson’s 2005 research shows a clear correlation between distraction and concentration. Social media distractions have grown substantially since his study subsequently so have the impacts. So the question becomes, knowing their is a negative impact on employee health and wellness, as well as positive organizational outcomes, why do we fail to address the issue? The more distracted we are, the harder it is to concentrate. This dynamic leads to higher anxiety and stress as employees try to do more in less time, rushed, and with less attention to details. Again, the outcome for companies and employees is not a positive one.
Creating an environment that requires, and supports mindfulness is difficult as our culture continues to veer in the opposite direction; however, it is necessary unless management is ready to lean into and accept lower productivity and an ongoing reduction in quality. Employers are in the midst of normalization of deviation due to social media which results in both short and long term losses.