- Pleasant (and sometimes unpleasant) distractions can break up the workday
- Taking coffee breaks, playing a quick computer game or taking a walk recharge employees
- Listen to music, unplug during your lunch break or even spruce up your workspace
Distractions in the workplace are inevitable, and they happen for a multitude of reasons.
Perhaps you've been staring at the computer for two hours straight and need to tear your eyes away for a few minutes. Maybe it's nearing the end of a long day and you need to get outside for the first time. Or maybe you're trying to get work done, but all the people around you are making that impossible.
It's smart for workplaces to view distractions in two ways, says Rachel Permuth-Levine, Ph.D., senior director of human capital research and outcomes at the blog "toLive."
"It is important to minimize distractions in the workplace and at the same time promote those 'pleasant' distractions that allow us to have a reprieve from the stressors of our job," Permuth-Levine says.
"Some types of distractions -- too much paperwork, multitasking, too much noise -- are harmful. They can lead to safety issues, lack of productivity or absenteeism. The pleasant distractions -- coffee break, taking a walk, talking to colleagues -- recharge us and help our health and performance on the job."
In a recent survey conducted by GSN Digital, the interactive division of the Game Show Network, nearly 80 percent of respondents who play online games during the workday said they feel more focused on work as a result of periodic mental breaks associated with game play.
Fifty-nine percent of those who play games at work play for 30 minutes or less. These respondents reported that taking just a few minutes off from work to play games helps them refocus, increases creativity and calms them down during stressful situations.
We asked our readers how they get through the workday. Here's what they had to say:
"One thing that gets me through the day is to get paperwork or computer work 'completed' during whatever breaks I can get through the day. The feeling of 'completion' is important to me, and I actually feel it improves my overall attitude and effectiveness. When work piles up, I feel more stressed and very time sensitive." -- Len Saunders, public education teacher
"White noise on my iPod has become my new best friend in the workplace. I changed jobs recently and the new company has an open office floor plan. The constant chatter in the office can be extremely distracting. Music tends to overstimulate and distract me as much as office chatter, but I find white noise at varying frequencies does the trick." --Troy Adkins, director of marketing and membership, CoreNet Global Inc.
"In a creative industry, it is super-critical to be able to keep the inspiration flowing and avoid workday burnout. Here are some of the things I do to make sure I stay focused and inspired: 'Bing' your favorite color. Surprisingly, a simple search can result in some gorgeous images to keep you smiling from the inside out. Fresh flowers on your desk make a huge difference; they not only add a lovely and fragrant element, but they greet everyone who walks into your office or work space. Take a few minutes to create a Pandora music channel that provides hours of your favorite music to keep you in a happy workplace rhythm. Watch a three-minute travel video to inspire you and have you looking forward to that well-earned vacation. Beautiful imagery and daydreams of that perfect vacation can keep you plugging away another day." -- Gina Samarotto, principal, The Samarotto Design Group
"The workplace distraction that gets me through my day is running at lunchtime. When I run, I can choose to sort out work items in my head or just zone out, not think and listen to music or my feet pounding the pavement. Running at lunch breaks up my day, and I come back for the afternoon energized and productive. Not only am I getting exercise, but my co-workers and clients are also benefiting from my workplace distraction." -- Jenika Scott, channel marketing manager, Hall Internet Marketing
"My favorite workplace distraction is the on-site massage. Our company has an in-house masseuse that visits the office once a week. I make sure I am on her schedule, as the quiet down time helps keep me motivated throughout the day. On days when I don't have a massage, I find solace playing one of the many video games found in our office, as they help sidetrack my attention, if only for a few minutes. Pac-Man never gets old!" --Taryn Lomas, vice president of strategic accounts, Underground Elephant