How to Combat Workplace Distractions

Modern workforces come with their own modern challenges. With the daily introduction of innovative technologies and tools intended to improve our lives, a new source of digital distraction has been born. For a better understanding of the impact of modern distractions at work, Udemy for Business, a global learning marketplace that helps employees do whatever comes next, surveyed the American workforce. I had the chance to connect with Darren Shimkus, Udemy for Business General Manager, to dive into the findings from its 2018 Workplace Distractions Report:

What has led to such a distracted workplace?

Our study indicates that employers aren’t doing much to help their workers manage non-stop distractions. In fact, nearly 70 percent of employees say they feel distracted at work, but 66 percent have never discussed solutions with their managers.

As a workforce, we’ve become increasingly reliant on technology and devices, but we haven’t stopped to consider the ways they may be undermining our ability to focus and stay productive, especially when workers haven’t been properly trained from the start.

What are the top distractions that employees are facing?

From our findings, 88 percent of employees cite social media as a top online distractor, however 58 percent of respondents don’t need social media to do their jobs. Of those that require it for work, 76 percent have never received training from their employer on its usage and, perhaps most shocking, we found that 36 percent of millennial employees spend two hours checking their personal devices during the day. Ideally, the time poured into activities that are not work-related can eventually be spent on gaining new skills, developing a growth mindset, and applying what they learn to their jobs.

How can businesses combat these distractions to ensure productive employees?

With 34 percent of employees admitting that constant interruptions make them like their jobs less, I’d first urge leaders to take distractions at work seriously before it’s too late. In addition to tactical changes like limiting personal technology usage, businesses can foster a learning culture that empowers their teams to leverage training to block out distractions and achieve focus. Not only can employees turn to training to drive smart, efficient use of the myriad of tools at their disposal, but soft skills development also helps employees maintain focus, become adaptable, and ultimately stay productive in an ever-changing work environment.

What should companies keep in mind when implementing a learning culture?

A learning culture starts at the top and permeates throughout the entire organization. By illustrating company-wide support of a learning mindset, employees are motivated to constantly improve and ultimately, the entire workplace can become more engaged overall.

Our survey even found that 70 percent of respondents agreed that a training culture could help block out distractions. As companies take a look at distractions and start the conversation around building a learning culture, it’s important to remember that not all learning styles are created equally. I urge businesses to avoid “cookie-cutter” training models and opt to bring in tools and content that are just as diverse as their employees.


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