From constant enquiries to continual background babble, there doesn’t seem to be an end to distractions in the modern open plan office.

Recent research has shown that when office employees are distracted, mistakes go up and productivity goes down. Some Melbourne business owners are incorporating better workplace practices to help eliminate a number of these distractions. After integrating these ideas they have found employees make less mistakes, productivity and creativity go up, and stress levels come down.

The distractions

The open plan office seems to be a constant hubbub of phone calls, email “pings”, idle chatter and genuine conversation. The noise interruptions can seem endless. Todays technology has brought a lot of comfort to the modern world, and a lot of discomfort to the office. With never ending notifications popping up on Smartphones, it’s hard to resist checking to find out what’s going on in the world outside. Their own computer screens can be great advocates for procrastination as well, with social media checking and internet surfing. Even just clutter on the desk and disorganisation can be sources of distraction.

The scope of the problem

Studies have shown that it can take up to 25 minutes for interrupted employees to get back to a task once distracted. This is largely due to the fact that they have to remember where they were with their task and then refocus. Add to that the statistic that office workers are disturbed roughly every 11 minutes, and you have the added distraction of anticipating another possible disruption. Procrastination is an even bigger problem though. Unmotivated employees can be distracted as little as every 3 minutes. There is a bit of good news though. Studies have also found that intrusions at the end of a task are less disruptive than at the start. And if an interruption is related to the task at hand, it is far less of an interference. Nonetheless, any unnecessary intrusion or diversion can be exacerbating for employees on a deadline.

Minimising distractions

So what answers are there for your open plan Melbourne office? Blocks of Do Not Disturb time are great. This can include incorporating a system that requires employees to divert their phones and literally put up a sign. If it’s possible, suggest employees keep email programs closed or notifications off throughout the day, and only check emails at set times. Office furniture fit outs can work to your advantage as well. Provide empty conference rooms, quiet zones, or higher partitions. Diagonal or zig-zag desk positioning prevent staff from looking straight at each other when they look up, ending distracting conversation. While white boards for to do lists are an amazing visual tool to keep them moving and focused. And encourage employees to keep their desktops clean and clear by storing items in a desk drawer or cabinet, including their mobile phone.

A common complaint among office workers is that there are not enough hours in the day, but the truth can often be that there are not enough ‘distraction free’ hours in the day. However with these great tips and a little bit of retraining or policy change, you can ensure your Melbourne office is as distraction proof as possible. For more advice or to look at making your office distraction free, contact Office Vision today and let us be distracted by the problem for you.

Quick tips to put in place today

  • Introduce ‘Distraction free’ work time for office staff
  • Make it a policy to keep smart phones in storage when not in use to minimise distraction
  • Introduce set times when staff can browse social media or surf the net.
  • Analyse your office layout to see if it could be set up better to maximise efficiency and minimise distractions.
  • Consider providing quiet rooms or spaces where employees can focus on demanding tasks that require un-distracted attention.