Workplace Distraction: 7+ Common Office Distractions & How To Avoid Them 

Photo by Craig Adderley

As you sit down to read this post, I’m sure you’ve already been distracted at work at least once today, if not more. You may be interrupted before you have finished reading this article. The basic truth is that we all confront distraction at work daily, and anything or someone may cause you to become sidetracked at any time.

If you think about your work week, I’m sure you can think of 5 to 10 things or people who have caused distractions at work. But how many of those distractions are self-inflicted, and how many are the result of your working environment? In this article, we will list the top most common distractions at work and their solutions, the effects of workplace distractions, and tips for getting your work done on time. 

7+ Common Office Distractions and How To Avoid Them 

Here are the top nine distractions at work and how to fix them so you can finally get rid of that troll.

#1. Noise

Remember that open-office layout you worked so hard for? At the time, it sounded like a brilliant idea, the ideal method to boost cooperation, inspire fresh ideas, and de-emphasize hierarchy in your firm. The spread of these types of offices has met with considerable criticism. There is a pushback against the open-office approach. The most important reason? Noise.

While the benefits of removing those cubicle boundaries are substantial, open offices may be dirty and noisy places. The open-office layout is ideal for work that involves a lot of communication and collaboration, but it’s not ideal for focused work.

The Solution: 

Wearing headphones is a simple solution. Headphones convey to teammates that you are engaged in focused work and should not be disturbed. Similarly, music has been demonstrated to improve focus and productivity by returning your mind to the current moment. Of course, not all music aids concentration in the same way.

#2. Smartphones

They are both a boon and a burden. Smartphones have made us more connected than ever before, allowing us to work on the go and making getting lost a thing of the past. However, these advantages are not without drawbacks. Part of the reason is due to the chemistry of our brains. Checking Facebook or text messages releases dopamine, a feel-good hormone that rewards us for completing activities.

The Solution: 

Use the do not disturb mode to silence such notifications. Because many of us need our cell phones during business hours to receive calls or stay connected when away from the office, turning them off during the day is just not an option. Fortunately, you can turn off notifications when your work requires your undivided attention.

#3. Multitasking

We’re all certain that we can pull it off. We answer phones while working on spreadsheets. While writing articles, we read them. We order lunch covertly while at an important staff meeting. The problem is, we’re wrong. Our brains are just not designed for multitasking, and we are all lousy at it.

The Solution:

Focusing on priorities is the answer. When you understand you must focus on one assignment, which one? Prioritization and planning are needed. Hit your highest-leverage activities hard.

Task management software like Asana helps you prioritise and track your most important tasks. Chrome extensions like Prioritab keep your most critical tasks at hand and remind you of them whenever you open a tab to browse Facebook.

#4. Interruptions

Another effect of open office design is that team members are more likely to interrupt each other to ask basic questions. This “shoulder tapping” is one of the most prevalent distractions at work.

The Solution

If you want to preserve your open office structure, devise a mechanism for team members to signal to one another when they are working on a certain task. Wearing headphones, signs, and flags are all ways to communicate the “do not disturb” signal. An atmosphere that emphasises meaningful communication as well as the recognition that everyone’s time is precious, can have a significant influence.

#5. Clutter

You have a couple of factors going against you if you work at a cluttered desk. This is because your brain is hardwired to react to its surroundings. A messy desk leads to a cluttered mentality. The point is that you can try to calm your mind and focus by exerting self-control (which is difficult) or by removing distracting factors from your work environment (which is much easier).

The Solution

Make it difficult for your mind to focus on anything other than the task at hand. Cleaning up your workspace is the first step. Minimalism is essential in this case. Clear the clutter from your desk and only keep items that help you with your work.

#6. Hunger

When it comes to performance, there isn’t anything more important than nutrition.

And we’re not talking about athletic ability. Nutrition is crucial for cognition and focus. Most of us are unaware that brain cells demand twice as much energy as the rest of our bodies’ cells. In other words, your brain requires long-term energy to function optimally.

The Solution

Provide sufficient nutrients for your crew. Avoid processed sweets and bad fats, which cause energy dumps and sluggishness. To stay focused, eat foods high in protein, fibre, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. By providing healthy snacking options in the office, you may save time and money. Your team will appreciate the benefit, and they will have the nourishment they require for concentrated work.

#7. Anxiety

Mental health and anxiety disorders are major issues in the UK. Previous estimates suggest millions of Brits have had anxiety disorders. One of anxiety’s little-known negative effects is its effect on concentration. Anxiety of moderate-to-high intensity impairs short-term memory and makes concentration nearly impossible.

The Solution

Anxiety is a side effect of chronic stress. While some healthy stress is beneficial to most people, it becomes a problem when there is no way to release it. Active rejuvenation is the solution. Nap pods, meditation rooms, and peace waterfalls are all excellent ways to encourage staff to actively rejuvenate. 

#8. Span of Attention

Even without the negative effects of our smartphone culture, our concentration has always had its limits. This is because attention and focus are limited capacities. Consider the focus to be a tank of gas in your car. You wake up every day with a full tank. If we’re not careful, you could spend it all on the wrong things before the game has even begun.

The Solution

When your energy and focus are at their greatest, tackle your highest-leverage activity first. (This is frequently the thing you are dreading.) You can also attempt the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working in small intervals (often 25 minutes) with short pauses (5–10 minutes).

#9. Email

Many of us check email first thing in the morning. We respond to urgent requests, read mailing list items, and delete junk mail. We open our mailbox daily and quickly open fresh emails. It’s not always our fault. Many of us have been taught that professional email responses are crucial. It turns out that this form of inbox engagement sabotages productivity. Responding to emails is reactive. Email threads and conversations pull us in many directions and distract us from important tasks.

The solution

The solution is to process your emails in batches. Instead of sitting in your inbox, schedule times to react to emails and keep track of them. At 8 a.m., you normally begin your day with the most strenuous activity. You check your inbox for emergencies once you’ve made significant progress (typically an hour later). If no meetings are scheduled, you work and check emails at 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and before leaving the office. Most emails you assume require your immediate reaction do not, and if someone needs to reach you to answer a question, they will typically find a way.

Effects of Distractions at Work

Numerous distractions at work might be harmful to employees. Employees may become distracted by various activities, and even the tiniest threat to a worker’s ability to focus might ruin an otherwise pleasurable workday.

#1. Inducing Forgetfulness

When you are interrupted while performing a task, the likelihood that you will forget a key step in the process you were in the middle of before being distracted increases. You may even forget to return to your original task or be unaware of any changes that occurred while you were occupied. Distractions cause you to forget where you left off nearly half of the time! Other times, the task has gotten entirely out of hand, and you must restart.

#2. Creating Inattentiveness

Your brain can only process so much data at once. Many scientific investigations have shown that completing two things at the same time is less effective than completing a single activity at a time. When your brain has to decipher and analyse more than one piece of information at a time, it slows down your reaction time and causes inattention to your core work. Mistakes happen, and major consequences can result.

#3. Capacity Reduction

You lose a chunk of your energy every time you shift your focus to a new task or pause what you’re doing to take in the distracting aspect. The body needs time to replenish energy and allow you to function at full capability. You may need to eat or rest to regain your previous level of alertness and intellectual capacity. Your personality and your workplace environment will determine the best strategies for dealing with distractions.

#4. Short Diversions

It’s possible that your brain genuinely needs a break and would welcome a brief distraction, especially if you’re stuck on a challenging topic that you’re having difficulty addressing. Managing distractions at work, rather than avoiding them entirely, maybe the best option. Allowing distractions to interrupt your work relieves pressure on your analytical and linear thinking processes and allows the subconscious to breathe. You could save time by being sidetracked if you remember to return to your original project.

Tips for Getting Your Work Done on Time

Deadlines may be both motivating and stressful. Meeting those completion targets is attainable with a reorganisation of your priorities and basic tactics for managing your distractions at work, improving your focus, and putting up barriers against interruptions. You will complete the critical duties at hand if you are committed and follow a strategy of attack.

#1. Distractions Should Be Kept to a Minimum

Non-work-related social media can cause your attention to wander. Although skimming a news feed may appear to take only seconds, the time mounts up, and your focus is broken for a longer period than you may realise. In addition to filtering off the Internet, work in a calm environment. Some people find that making the effort to straighten up their desks can help them focus on their work.

#2. Keep Others at Arms’ Length

Balancing your responsibilities to your urgent work, coworkers, and other work chores is an art best practiced by closing the door. Schedule meetings and post a “do not disturb” sign on your door or workspace to tell others that now is not the time to seek your advice on a fresh concept. Allow the calls to go to voicemail and the emails to accumulate in your inbox. Only return messages at the specified time.

#3. Take Your Time

When you’re on a tight deadline, scheduling breaks may seem counterintuitive. However, a burst of 60–90 minutes of focused work followed by a 15-minute break will be more effective than longer periods that leave you exhausted. Plan your work and rest hours to ensure you have enough time to be consistently at your best. Once you’ve started, keep an eye on the time and stick to your strategy.

#4. Divide It Up

Even the most complex project may be divided into smaller, more manageable components. Make a task list that splits your work into manageable portions. You will have to concentrate on smaller chunks of work for shorter periods, requiring you to work more efficiently. If one part of a project is annoying you, set it aside and go on to something else that is more important and easier to do.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Distraction?

The following are some common descriptions of easily distracted symptoms:

  • You find it difficult to concentrate and you are easily distracted.
  • You notice that you are more easily sidetracked than usual.
  • You notice that your mind wanders away from what you are concentrating on.

How Much Time Do Employees Waste Because of Distractions?

According to research, interruptions cost an average of 2.1 hours every day. The average amount of time we spend on a task before becoming distracted is 11 minutes. It takes 25 minutes to return to a task following a disturbance.

What Is an Illustration of an Internal Distraction?

Controlling internal distractions. Internal distractions are your own emotions and thoughts. These can include ideas about pressing duties or enjoyable activities you’d rather be performing. This can include feelings about your life, the task you’re working on, concerns, and worries.

What Effect Can Distraction Have on Mental Health?

While unintentional distractions may help with your unpleasant sensations of anxiety in the short term, many activities you may do to deliberately divert yourself may be harmful. Trying not to think certain thoughts, for example, will inevitably end in you thinking them more.

What Does Psychology Have to Say About Distraction?

The number one source of distraction is not what is going on around us, but rather what is going on within us. It all comes down to those psychological triggers. That is the source of most of our distractions, boredom, uncertainty, weariness, loneliness, anxiety, and stress. We seek relief from the discomfort.

Is Distraction a Depression Mechanism?

When dealing with depression, distraction can help. Let’s look at how distraction might help with depression management. Breaks negative mind patterns: Depressive episodes frequently entail persistent negative thought patterns. Distraction can help disrupt these loops by shifting your focus.

What Causes People to Become Distracted at Work?

Increased stress and other psychological problems are the most common causes of easily distracted behaviour. When we are anxious or overwhelmed, our entire mind and body are affected, causing us to lose focus and become exhausted.


Distractions at work are unavoidable, but there are ways to optimise your workspace and reduce their impact. The aim is to eliminate as many as possible. Rather than fighting your biology daily, eliminate as many as possible by avoiding the temptations in the first place. Although there is an extensive list of distractions at work, the right techniques and tools can assist in eliminating them. One of the first steps in avoiding distraction is to identify the key sources of distraction. The next step is to figure out how to eradicate them. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *