Digital Detox - Eliminating Technology Distractions in the Workplace

Technology continues to change our lives in ways that we could never imagine. In today’s digital society, most of us stay “plugged-in” 24/7. Our phones are always on, even when we’re sleeping. During the day, we remain in constant communication with our friends and family members through apps and devices.
The mobile revolution is gaining more traction with each passing year. Consumers are moving more towards mobile for everything they do online, and organizations are also starting to embrace mobile technology solutions as well.

However, while technology offers digital workplaces plenty of advantages in improving both the employee and customer experience, it also presents a challenge for managers and employees as well.

Tech can become a distraction if not managed correctly. While we all embrace the role tech plays in our lives and our careers, we need to use it to enhance productivity, not slow it down.

Managers need to understand how to correctly execute a digital strategy in the workplace while eliminating those solutions that create distractions and reduce productivity.

Finding the right balance in the use of digital solutions in the workplace is challenging. However, it’s possible to find a strategy that increases employee engagement and productivity while minimizing distractions.

Most Employees State They Feel Distracted at Work

Keeping your employees engaged and productive is the key focus of any good manager. However, recent surveys show that most Americans state they feel distracted by technology in the workplace.

Unfortunately, distraction leads to lower levels of employee engagement and less productivity in the workplace. As a manager, you need to understand how this data affects your current business model.

According to research, there is a correlation between decreased levels of employee productivity and increased levels of distraction, with technology featuring as the top distractions in the modern workplace.

A report by Udemy shows that more than one third or millennial and Gen Z employees use their phones for personal matters, for up to 2-hours of the workday. That’s 10-hours of the working week that most employees in this age category are taking away from productivity.

Further research indicates that nearly 70% of all employees report technology distractions in the workplace, with mobile devices, particularly smartphones, leading the way in the favored device of choice.

So, what are these employees doing on their phones that are more important than completing work-related tasks? Research shows that social media is the primary culprit, with texting a close second. Many employees state they feel bored on the job and turn to their phones for a brief entertainment break to stimulate their minds.

However, in unmanaged environments, this behavior can quickly get out of control, causing massive drops in productivity that slow organizational progress toward business objectives.

How Can Organizations Combat Technology Distractions in the Workplace?

First off, employers need to understand that technology is not the enemy. Tech plays a vital role in the digital transformation of any organization, and without tech, your company will fall behind the pack in the digital economy.

Managers shouldn’t take the draconian approach of banning all tech in the workplace. Tech needs management, not banishment – and going back to pen and paper solutions is not an option.

Instead of taking the authoritarian approach to managing tech in the workplace, managers need to develop proactive strategies that provide employees with the opportunity to utilize tech in the workplace, without it becoming a distraction.

Here are a few ideas for eliminating technology distractions in the workplace.

1. Leaders Must Present the Model for Good Tech Behavior

Managers and organizational leaders need to provide workers with a good role model for the use of tech in the workplace. If a manager is continuously multi-tasking or answering emails, then that’s the behavior they can expect to instill in their team.

The manager needs to create an atmosphere of a healthy and balanced relationship with tech solutions in the workplace. By taking this approach to the situation, employees embody best practices that look at tech solutions as tools, not distractions.

2. Stipulate Clear Guidelines for the Use of Tech in the Workplace

Technology in the workplace can present both a blessing and a curse for employees and managers. Managers need to discern what type of technologies benefit the workplace and those that create distractions.

For instance, bringing in a system for automated workflows can be a blessing, especially if it offers mobile functionality for employees.

However, allowing employees to use Twitter on their smartphones throughout the working day is an example of unproductive use of tech in the workplace.

Managers need to describe the when’s and whys of using tech, ensuring that tech becomes an asset in the workplace, instead of a liability.

3. Focus on Time Management

Employers and employees need to understand that time is the most valuable asset of any organization. Losing time to tech distractions in the workplace costs American organizations billions of dollars in productivity each year.

Managers need to create a time management strategy that focuses on completing high-priority tasks first. Tech solutions that assist employees and managers with managing time are an excellent example of how tech can benefit productivity.

Encourage the use of productivity apps in the workplace, but make sure your employees use them efficiently.

4. Keep Devices Out of Your Meetings

Unless your taking notes or presenting information, keep tech out of the boardroom and your sales meetings. When you’re in a meeting, you want employees and managers to be present. Set standards that don’t permit devices in meetings unless approved beforehand.

If you’re having trouble with people adhering to this rule, then create a “locker” where people leave their phones before they step into the meeting.

5. Unplug to Increase Focus

Research shows that the average employee has an 8-second attention span unless they are undertaking an engaging activity. Unfortunately, this data reveals that humans are prone to distraction.

Before your employees start a task, make them define their actions, they are going to take over the next 30-minutes. Eliminate all tech distractions from the workplace during this time to allow for complete engagement in the activity.

6. Disable Your Notifications

Sometimes, your employees don’t even need to be near their device to start the cycle of distraction. A notification from their phone is enough to send their mind wandering about who trying to get in touch with them or what app just received an update.

When employees enter the workplace, have them leave their notifications on silent to prevent unnecessary distractions during the workday. Manage the tech; don’t let it manage your employees.

7. Focus on Achieving Organizational Goals and Meeting Employee Expectations

The workplace will always have distractions, and as we move deeper into the digital age, you can expect them to keep popping up. Organizations can eliminate distractions in the workplace by initiating a tech briefing session as part of the onboarding process for new employees.

Setting standards for tech use in the workplace allows you to put your employees on the right path from their first day on the job. By setting the rules on the first day, you set the benchmark. Employees can concentrate on achieving targets and business objectives, rather than on what’s going on with their device.

8. Create a Dedicated Tech Time

In today’s digital economy, people need to check on their devices from time to time. Initiating a total ban on phones in the workplace ends up causing a decrease in employee engagement. Managers need to find the right balance in the use of personal tech devices in the workplace.

Setting up a 20-minute window every few hours for employees to check their devices is an excellent way to ensure your employees don’t feel like they’re working in an authoritarian environment.

9. Lift Engagement to Remove Distractions

Research shows that most employees report turning to tech distractions when they don’t feel engaged at work. Managers can boost levels of employee engagement through the use of tech solutions in the digital workplace.

By introducing intelligent, intuitive, and innovative tech solutions in the workplace, it’s possible to increase employee engagement. Higher levels of engagement lead to improved productivity in the organization and increased revenues.

Employees need to find meaning in their work if you want to increase engagement and retain their top talent. Employees that don’t feel engaged with their work are likely to walk away from your company as well.

10. Enable ‘Do Not Disturb’ status

Collaboration tools are a popular tech solution implemented by organizations to enhance employee communications. Collaboration tools get employees across different departments talking with each other. As a result, engagement increases and productivity rises.

However, collaboration tools can become a distraction in themselves if not properly managed. If your team relies on collaboration tools such as Basecamp or Slack, then it’s easy for employees to find themselves discussing the new Avengers movie, instead of the relevant project.

To avoid these types of distractions with collaboration and communication tools, set up a “Do Not Disturb” status on any messenger apps or collaboration tools when focusing on work-related tasks, such as analyzing data, drafting reports, or outlining client campaigns.