Improving Productivity

Office Distractions

Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures

Distractions can be nuisances that slow our productivity and hinder our quality. Aim to reduce employee distractions while still keeping a positive working environment.

There are many distractions that can hinder our workforce from operating productively and efficiently.

Office Distractions

We want to minimize these distractions in order to keep our company performing at a high level. Distractions can come in many forms, some more obvious than others. There is a fine balance between keeping our employees happy and minimizing their distractions. Many of the factors that managers view as distractions are viewed as "musts" by the employees.

Cell phones and other phone calls can be enormous distractions for employees. As employers, we need to find the appropriate decision on personal phone calls during the workday. We need our employees to be able to talk to their families, especially if emergencies arise.

This can be a slippery slope; however, as employees without families may feel entitled to use an equal amount of phone time for personal calls.

If you are in a production environment, your employees should not be allowed to carry their cell phones onto the production floor. They can distract employees and create serious safety or quality problems. You should have a paging number that employee family members can call if there is an issue. All employees should be able to be reached in case of a family emergency. Cell phones are too much of a distraction and there is too much a gray area to be allowed for use.

Music in the workplace can be used to alleviate stress, create a more fun working environment or just to provide some entertainment while working. There is no clear cut answer as to whether or not music should be allowed in the workplace. This should depend on your type of company and the work your employees are completing.

There are many questions that need to be asked when analyzing the question of music in the workplace. First off, is the music offensive? If the stations being played are offensive to either employees or customers, it should not be allowed. If the music is appropriate, is it creating a distraction for your employees?

Distraction in the typical sense might mean an employee is listening to the radio instead of completing their work. While this is valid, it's not as worrisome as the type of distraction that could create a quality or safety problem. If the music is loud and prevents an employee from hearing a potential problem, then the music should be eliminated.

I witnessed a manufacturing company that played loud music during production. One of the machines was breaking down and making a large hissing sound due to overheating. The employees on the line could not hear the sound because of the blaring music.

Eventually the machine caught fire and had to be extinguished. Because of distracting music, the machine was ruined, the production line had to stop producing for several hours and a serious safety hazard existed. While music was not the root of this problem, it prevented it from being solved quickly and created a safety hazard.

Trying to find the balance between a fun workplace and safe, distraction free workplace can be hard work. Do your best to find this balance and remember, safety and productivity should be on the top of the list.

Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.

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