Focus & Productivity in the Workplace

By Olly Thomas

Focus & Productivity in the Workplace: Introduction and Statistics

The modern workplace is full of distractions. Over the past few years the business landscape has been transformed with the rise of many instant, realtime communication tools. This has taken over from more traditional ways of communicating such as in person meetings and email, and yet our thinking is still routed in the old paradigm. This has enabled some interesting shifts to happen especially with the steady increase of remote work and distributed teams. The spread of fast mobile broadband means we can work from anywhere and at any time but this also means we’re able to be contacted at any time as well. The lines between our work lives and personal lives have been blurred by technologyand along with it the expectations by employers and our coworkers to be ‘always available’.


The Problems and Solutions

For most of our day we require focused work to get meaningful things done. However our attention is being split, divided by numerous little distractions that hinder us from doing our best work. ****In a traditional office environment these distractions come in many forms, from noisy open offices, to being tapped on the shoulder by an eager colleague, to a never ending stream of emails and pings. Distractions have been shown to knock a person out of their flow costing the individual 23 minutes of precious time to get back into the right mindset.****Remote work on the other hand allows people to work on their own terms, dictating how and when they allow themselves to be distracted. This however takes routine and discipline to achieve along with a number of new problems be overcome.

The outcome of distraction free time is a big boost in productivity but this can come at a cost. Many remote workers are now being shown to overwork, both in terms of not taking breaks during the day and also working far longer than in a traditional office. This compounds over time meaning many employees burn out over time. To combat this we suggest an employee develops their own workday routines in line with how and when they work best. However one thing is important for all and that is to take well timed breaks.****A break allows one to step away from your tasks and reset, often times yielding higher quality outcomes as a result. Taking a 10 minute break every few hours can do wonders for your productivity meaning the time you do focus is far more effective.

Unplugging from work has been shown to be the number one top challenge for remote workers for 2019. ****The lines between work and home life have been blurred to such an extent that without discipline it becomes impossible to separate. Adding to the fact that timezones now spread people out over the entire globe means collaboration and communication need to be rethought. While instant messaging is great for some things it’s terrible for many others. Moving toward an asynchronous communication and collaboration style can help with this, while setting rules around when to focus, when to be social and when to check notifications is key to a productive and happy day.

Another upside of a distraction free and productive day is a greater feeling of wellbeing, accomplishment and purpose. Feel like part of something bigger than yourself by contributing quality work whilst developing your skill set is a big reward in itself. Intrinsic motivation can have a large impact on employee happiness, engagement and overall mental wellness.


Focus and Productivity Conclusion

It is up to leadership to set an example, setting the tone of communication, what is acceptable, what is not, when can we expect an answer and when it’s ok to wait. The ebb and flow of information needs to be carefully orchestrated in a remote environment otherwise it can quickly crumble into manic ‘busy’ work which helps no one. There are key steps individuals can take to make sure they have a productive and focused day.

At Deskguru we believe you need to set the rules to the game in advance. Plan your day around focus mode, breaks and social time. Striking a balance between these habits will allow an employee to increase the quality of their work, communication and improve their work-life balance in the process.


Actionable Checklist

  • Carve out solid chunks of focus time for you get get the important stuff done. 90-120 minutes work well.
  • Take well timed breaks between focus mode of around 10-15 minutes.
  • Take a decent lunchbreak away from your desk. Incorporate some activity to break up your day such as a walk.
  • Set rules around your work hours and turn off notifications once you have finished work so you can truly unplug.
  • Have set times to check in with your team mates, important notifications and email.


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