How to Combat Distraction in the Workplace

Workplace distraction is a growing problem for companies today. In fact, companies are struggling to help employees of all generations deal with these changing conditions.

[featured-image single_newwindow=”false” alt=”Work in a Coffee Shop”]Image courtesy of Tim Gouw on Unsplash[/featured-image]

The problem is, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Rather, there are many solutions to the issues.

Do you struggle with distractions? Distractions emerge in various forms. They can be:

  • Auditory (phone, hallway conversations, loud talkers)
  • Technological (Facebook, Slack, Twitter, text messages)
  • Visual (somebody walking by)

These distractions pull us out of our “deep work” as Cal Newport says. When we are in our “deep work” state, we are hyper-focused and able to complete more items.

The more we get pulled from our “deep work” state, the less we complete. The challenge facing designers is how to achieve density without sacrificing focus.

Creating a Productive Workplace

The cubicle reshaped the workplace in the late 60's and early 70's. Today, benching has re-defined the workplace again. Benching provides an increase in density as well as some flexibility in configuration.

The best option is a hybrid solution of benching, standard cubicles, and offices.

Dedicated work zones help employees focus on the tasks at hand. In a benching solution, two monitors act as a visual blocker from your neighbor. Unfortunately, in this type of environment audio distractions are difficult to remove.

Combating Audio Distraction

If your company is moving in this direction, the best solution to limit audio distractions is a sound-masking system. Sound masking systems generate white noise to drown out conversations.

Over time your brain begins to tune out the white noise frequency, so you no longer hear it.

The white noise hides or masks conversations around you to allow you to focus on your work. White noise generators come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Most systems are embedded in the ceiling grid system and controlled via electronics or some mechanical dial system.

Smaller white noise generators are available through apps on your phone. These can be used to help you focus and to drown out the conversations around you.

Combating Visual Distraction

In an open plan environment, you can tweak the positioning of your benching or cubicle solutions, so you don't see a sea of people.

By angling employees or shifting their positioning, you create small break spaces in the design to combat visual distractions or “cubicle fatigue.”

When you create a new workspace, incorporate conference and focus rooms to sub-divide the space visually. These areas create pockets of quiet zones for employees to keep the open plan from becoming overwhelming.

Creating floorplates that include the following types of spaces aid employee's adoption of space and contribute to a lower degree of visual distraction.

  • Desking (assigned or unassigned)
  • Conferencing (formal and informal)
  • Collaborative (open or closed)
  • Break (kitchenette or pantry)
Workspace Ideas - Haworth
Example floorplate – image courtesy of Haworth, Inc.

Creating alternative workspaces give employee's choice at work of where to work while helping them remove auditory and visual distractions.

These alternative spaces can lead to cutting-edge breakthroughs in their work, and give more productive hours back to their employers. Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all workplace.

Balancing density with focus will be essential in meeting the needs of your employees for future.

[reminder]How do you balance density and focus?[/reminder]

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I help facilities manager and planner create spaces that are backed by research, engage employees of all generations, and drive business objectives. I am also the founder of Dave's Book Club – a once per month reading experience designed to help professionals grow their influence.

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