I Can’t Get My Work Done: A New Industry Survey Looks At Workplace Distractions

A new industry survey finds that almost 60% of work interruptions are digital, people waste over an hour a day at work, and two thirds of workers will tune out of meetings to connect digitally with someone else.

A new industry survey looking at the impact of distractions
at work has been released. The survey polled 515 IT
users working in U.S. and global companies and found the following:


• The majority (57%) of work
interruptions now involve either using collaboration and social tools like
email, social networks, text messaging and IM, or switching windows among
disparate standalone tools and applications. In fact, 45% of employees work
only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted, and 53% waste at least one
hour a day due to all types of distractions. The breakdown of the most common
workplace distractions by activity:


• That hour per day
translates into $10,375 of wasted productivity per person per year, assuming an
average salary of $30/hour. That is more than the average U.S. driver will
spend this year to own and maintain a car, according to the Automobile
Association of America (AAA). That means that for businesses with 1,000
employees, the cost of employee interruptions exceeds $10 million per year. The actual cost of distraction is even
higher in terms of negative impacts on work output, work quality, and
relationships with clients and co-workers.


• The increasingly common
addiction to web-based activity–which psychologists call ‘online compulsive
disorder’–is pervasive in the workplace. For example, 2 out of 3 people will tune out
of face-to-face meetings to communicate digitally with someone else. The addiction is also taking over people’s
personal lives. Case in point: the majority of people under the age of 40
stay digitally connected in bed, and 44% of people under 30 stay connected
during a night out at the movies.

• Two-thirds of companies and
technology users are pursuing tools and strategies to minimize digital
distractions, reflecting an understanding of the need to restore productivity
that is being sapped by misuse of digital applications.

• Toggling between multiple
applications/windows/tabs/items on the desktop contributes to the problem of
distraction, along with using multiple devices at the same time. 45% of survey respondents keep at least
six items open simultaneously, and 65% report using one to three desktop or
mobile devices in addition to their main computer.


• The amount time people
spend per work day looking for documents is:


For mor information, browse the infographic below or download the complete report.


Disclaimer: The study was commissioned by social email provider ‘harmony’), ( where
the author of this post is an executive.


About the author

A technology strategist for an enterprise software company in the collaboration and social business space. I am particularly interested in studying how people, organizations, and technology interact, with a focus on why particular technologies are successfully adopted while others fail in their mission. In my 'spare' time, I am pursuing an advanced degree in STS (Science, Technology, and Society), focusing on how social collaboration tools impact our perceptions of being overloaded by information. I am an international scholar for the Society for the History of Technology.