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Distraction in the workplace and its impact on productivity - flexible working practices eradicate the problem

Author: Lucia Kelleher

The aim of the study was to test the following hypothesis:

Australian workers are not so much dis-engaged and unproductive, they are distracted and overloaded which in turn leads to overwhelm and feelings of never having enough time to do all that is required – both at work and outside of work”.

A further hypothesis tested was that flexibility and working to complete a job, project or tasks rather than being paid to ‘work for 8 hours’ was a viable answer to productivity losses due to distraction and ‘time wasted at work’ and that there were individuals and businesses out there already doing this.

As part of the analysis we set out to quantify the ‘cost of distraction’ to businesses. The study recruited a sample of 435 workers who self-selected to respond to the survey, thus removing any potential bias with paid respondents as with purchased panels for conducting research, as well as other biases with employer driven employee surveys.

Our results indicated that distraction not only had a significant impact on workplace productivity, but it appears to have created a ‘false perception’ of being productive when in actual fact, people were not ‘doing what they were paid to do’ – yet reported being productive. The business and personal cost of this silent pandemic was explored in detail and is likely to represent only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ in terms of the true impact on both individuals and organisations.

Results indicated that 80% of respondents reported not being in control of their workload. The research provides evidence that a paradigm shift is occurring in recognition and response to the 24/7 lifestyle resulting from advances in technology and the speed of information transfer that is our ‘life’ in 2013. The only problem is that business structures and “hours of operation” have not caught up to a 24/7 global marketplace, leaving 80% of employee’s disempowered.

Video of Lucia Kelleher's presentation