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The Old-fashioned Distractions Still Rule At Work

What is your biggest workplace distraction? Oh, come on now; you know you have one! Let's meet by the water cooler to discuss.

A new BambooHR survey of more than 1,000 U.S.-based employees reveals that our workplace distractions, like our politics, remain largely local. While it's tempting to think that the internet would top our list of preferred workplace interruptions, it doesn't take up nearly as much mental bandwidth as standing by the water cooler, taking another bathroom break and engaging in office gossip with our workplace besties.

Upper-level managers are the most likely to kick their workplace distractions old school, too. From the BambooHR press release:

More upper management employees (10 percent) spend 30 minutes or more each workday taking trips to the water cooler or break room than lower management employees.

More upper management employees (7 percent) spend 30 minutes or more each workday taking bathroom breaks than lower management employees.

More upper management employees (6 percent) spend 30 minutes or more each workday watching TV than lower management employees.

Wait a minute. Upper management gets to watch television? I guess this is what we call visionary thinking.

It makes sense that our biggest workplace distractions are still physical in nature, since so much of our work is virtual in a knowledge economy. Moving around, speaking face-to-face with co-workers and overheating something in the break room microwave are physical actions that engage our brains in a different way.

Another interesting finding: Nearly 20% of employees surveyed said that workplace distractions actually help their overall performance at work! Distractions aren't all bad; just ask any writer who is trying to write a novel at a coffee shop. Four hours and one cup of coffee later, the output can sometimes be amazing, thanks in large part to all the background noise.

We keep hearing about the negatives of today's open office environments, but maybe it's time to focus on the positives for a change. How do all the distractions we can't help but see and hear help us get more work done? Hmm. I'll let you ponder this question as you watch your boss gossip by the water cooler.


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