by Shannon Buerk, Founder, and CEO of engage2learn.
Plato Said It Best
Distraction and lost productivity in the workplace have many harmful consequences, including added stress, longer working hours, and low morale. Acclaimed public speaker, Brendon Burchard, recently penned this workplace epidemic, “The Stunning Costs of Distraction,” and since conducting my own research on this topic, I have been both fascinated and alarmed. While advances in technology prevail as the top, modern-day distractors, productivity concerns date back to ancient Greece. Perhaps Plato surmised it best when he said, “All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works…without meddling with anything else.”
Alarming Productivity Statistics
According to recent productivity statistics, the quintessential 8-hour work day is no more. In fact, the average employee contributes just six hours daily at best. The math is simple: it takes nearly 25 minutes for one to return to full productivity after a distraction, and the 2018 Workplace Distraction Report cites an average of 55 distractions every day! That accounts for merely 11 minutes of uninterrupted productivity between distractors, which are depicted in the CareerBuilder graph below. According to a University of California at Irvine study, “People compensate for interruptions by working faster, but this comes at a price: experiencing more stress, higher frustration, time pressure, and effort,” (source). No wonder a staggering number of Americans report career fatigue and burnout, and we all know that public education, though highly rewarding, is a high-stakes, high-stress field of work.
Besides lost productivity, there are other costs to distractions. Burchard estimates that the time the average person spends on distractions over a lifetime adds up to a total of 13 years of 24-hour days. He also calculates that this same amount of time turned into productivity could yield approximately $1,000,000 in earnings. Are we spending our time the way we want to spend it? If we are having to work later to make up for two hours of distractions every day, what are we missing as a result? If we want to change this dynamic, we need to be intentional. There are plenty of people who stand to gain from our distraction. But that, my friends, is another blog.
It is true that knowing is half the battle. (Yes, I just quoted G.I. Joe there!) Begin by arming yourself with more information; I recommend Tristan Harris’ TED Talk, “What is the Cost of Infinite Distractions.” At engage2learn, we always devise an Action Plan. Which of these three, simple actions are you willing to take to get started minimizing your distractions and getting your life back? You got this!
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