Smart Phones, Clueless Co-Workers Among Main Work Distractions, Study Finds

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By Genevieve Douglas  

June 12 — While personal use of technology is one of the leading depressors of workplace productivity, the behavior of co-workers also rates high as a hindrance to getting work done, according to a survey released June 12 by CareerBuilder.

The Chicago-based consulting firm's survey featured 2,138 hiring managers and human resources professionals, and 3,022 full-time, private sector workers.

It found that about one in four workers (24 percent) admitted that, during a typical workday, they will spend at least one hour a day on personal calls, e-mails or texts. Additionally, 21 percent estimated that they spend one hour or more during a typical workday searching the Internet for non-work-related information.

The study showed that employers are hip to technology's impact on work performance. When asked to name the top productivity impediments, half (50 percent) cited cell phone/texting, 39 percent mentioned the Internet, 38 percent blamed social media and 23 percent called out e-mail.

“In this day and age of technology … a lot of people have a smart phone and it's not surprising that the largest productivity stopper is texting or using one's cell phone,” Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, told Bloomberg BNA June 11.

To combat these distractions, the survey found that 73 percent of employers have used strategies such as blocking certain Internet sites, prohibiting personal calls or personal use of cell phones and monitoring e-mails and Internet usage.

With the prevalence of personal technology in the workplace, however, employers' attempts to control employees' online behavior are occurring less and less, Haefner said. She recommended that employers “find [the] middle ground” by acknowledging that employees can be more productive when given some time for personal business. Employers that attempt to make their employees focus on work 100 percent of the time tend to get the opposite results, Haefner said.

Co-Worker Concerns

The survey found that employees and employers both listed co-worker behavior as a major workplace distraction.

“What is interesting is the findings that show that individuals cite their co-workers as distractions that prohibit productivity,” Haefner said. Most employees have personal goals in the workplace, whether it is to improve their work, get a promotion or just maintain the status quo, and co-workers can derail achieving these goals, she said.

According to the survey, co-workers were cited by employers as impeding productivity by being noisy (24 percent), dropping by (23 percent) and putting calls on speaker phone (10 percent).

Other obstacles to better workplace performance cited by employers were gossip (42 percent), snack or smoke breaks (27 percent) and meetings (23 percent).

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com