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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: June 13, 2015.

There’s been plenty written about distractions these days – especially at the office. Everyday workers face a variety of obstacles to focused work that didn’t exist with past generations of employees. Social media, the Internet, mobile phones, text messages and more whittle away the kind of blocked out time that it takes to do great work. But as far back as 2011 a study in the journal “Organization Studies” revealed the single biggest distraction we face at work:

Co-workers. That’s right – other people. The study discovered that face-to-face interruptions account for one-third more intrusions than email or phone calls (which employees feel more free to defer or ignore.) Other research from the University of California at Irvine revealed employees working in cubicles are interrupted 29% more often than those in private offices, and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day was the peak period for these interruptions.

And these interruptions aren’t cheap. Workers who report frequent interruptions have nearly 10% higher rates of exhaustion and a 4% increase in physical sickness and ailments such as headaches, backaches, and more.

And getting back on task after a distraction is a problem as well. Other research indicates that after an interruption it takes 25-40 minutes to get back to the same level of focus you had before the distraction.

The lesson? Understand the incredible damage to your creativity and productivity distractions and interruptions can cause. Then, be proactive in avoiding them. Whether you hang a sign outside your cubicle or door, wear headphones, find another location for deep focused work, or other alternative, keeping distractions to a minimum can make the difference between success and failure in your career. And for leaders, understand how much these types of face-to-face distractions can undermine an organization’s productivity.

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