This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.
When asked about the single greatest detractor of workplace productivity, most employees, and especially managers, will incorrectly cite workplace meetings or meeting mismanagement. While it is certainly true that a great amount of productivity is lost to these things, the real answer is workplace interruptions, especially given the push to open-office floor plans. While this design trend was intended to facilitate more communication and collaboration, it no doubt carried an unintended downside. The lower cubicle walls, communal snack bars and break rooms, and removal of office doors bring heightened interruptions, as well as concerns over keeping information confidential. A study by the University of California Irvine found that employees who work in open floor plans have 29% more interruptions than employees in offices.
Multiple research studies have found that interruptions have a negative effect on employee engagement, job satisfaction, stress levels, and job performance, ultimately resulting in lower productivity and increased absenteeism. These adverse effects of interruptions cost an estimated $588 billion a year in the US, according to Basex Research. One of the biggest contributors to this staggering cost is the fact that after an interruption, it takes an average of 25 minutes for the employee to get back to the task at hand.1
While some of the workday interruptions are from external sources such as coworkers, emails, a telephone ring, texts, and social media, shockingly, 44% of the interruptions occur when we interrupt ourselves, which seems both ironic and counterintuitive.2