The overwhelmed employee needs to create time and space to focus

Overwhelmed employees feel unable to ignore to distractions, according to a new report.

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends survey of 2,500 organisations from around the world provides a broad and comprehensive look at the major challenges facing employers as they seek to attract and retain the best employees, engage them with their organisation and help them to be happy and productive at work. Even within such a detailed and extensive report it is telling that there is a whole chapter dedicated to ‘The Overwhelmed Employee’.

The results of the survey used in the report can be astonishing:

  • Two-thirds of those employees surveyed claimed to feel overwhelmed by work but felt unable to ignore the things that tether them to their workstation or devices.
  • Those with smartphones check them an average of 150 times a day (which, as an average, suggests there are some who check them many more times than that).
  • Two-thirds of executives believe the ‘overwhelmed employee’ is an urgent or important problem, although 44 percent said that they are ‘not ready’ to deal with it

Just how big a problem this can be is shown by the citation of another study from email provider, which showed that 57 percent of interruptions at work resulted from either social media tools or switching between applications, with the remaining 43 percent the result of distractions from noise, phone calls and colleagues.

One of the most important things that both organisations and individuals can do is to change their behaviour. Indeed, this is the focus of the Deloitte report in encouraging businesses to create a more focussed working culture and work with employees to make them aware of just how important the challenge is, its impact on their productivity and wellbeing, find ways of minimising the number of distractions they face each day and improves the ways in which they deal with them.

The study found that just under half (45 percent) of employees can work for only 15 minutes or less without dealing with some form of distraction and 53 percent waste at least one hour a day due to all forms of distraction.

The physical environment plays a vital role in this process, not only because it can reduce and mitigate more physical disturbances such as noise and visual distractions but also because it can be an important signifier of culture.

While few people, if any, are arguing for a return to the bad old days of private cubicles and cellular offices, a well designed workplace will always strike the right balance of openness and collaboration. This means providing a mixture of spaces in which people can enjoy anything from complete openness to partial or total privacy.  It is then down to them as individuals to manage the way they work.

The office might give them the space in which to focus on an important task that requires their full attention but it’s up to them to use one of the most useful and underutilised features of their phone; its off-switch.


Category: Blog