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Research: 52% of employees are distracted by mobile at work

Research from Rise, the workplace meaning and happiness consultancy, revealed that over half (52%) of Australians who are distracted by their smartphone or social media during work hours also admit that they would be less distracted if they felt happier at work.

The new research shows that Aussies productivity in the workplace could be waning due to the distractions caused by smartphones and social media, with a third (32%) of Aussies stating that they are regularly distracted by their smartphones and social media at work, and more than half (51%) check their phones or social feeds up to 10 times a day.

Commenting on the results, Ross Reekie, Founder of Rise, said, “As technology becomes more prevalent in people’s lives, the use of smartphones and social media during working hours is only likely to increase. However, it’s clear from the research that if people feel happier at work they will be more engaged and focused, so get less distracted at work.”

As well as regularly getting distracted at work, Australians are also taking a considerable amount of time out of their day to check their phones or social media, with nearly a quarter (24%) admitting that they spend up to one and a half hours distracted every working day. While 7 out of 10 (69%) people spend at least half an hour on their smartphones or social media at work.

Reekie said, “Whilst distractions in the workplace occur, not all distractions should be viewed negatively as some can encourage people to have a chat and connect with each other over the latest news or funny memes.

“When workers are distracted too often or for too long, it indicates that they may be unhappy in their work, this often results in a lack of motivation to get work done and has a knock-on effect on a company’s success.”

Dynamic Business had a chat to Ross Reekie about the latest research and what it means for small businesses.

Why are employees spending time distracted on their phone?
  • Social media is designed to be addictive and keep us hooked on their platforms. As it has pervaded our every waking moment via the smartphones that ping in our pockets, it’s only natural that we’ll be more distracted at work.
  • Our research shows that if people are happier at work then they’re far less likely to get distracted by social media. This suggests that disengagement from our jobs is the real issue and smartphones have just acted as the catalyst to highlight this.
  • Our research aligns with the many academic studies that show that doing meaningful work increases engagement, happiness, and focus, reducing the likelihood of being distracted.

What can businesses do to minimise distractions in the workplace?

  • The best thing a business can do is to focus on making work a more meaningful and fulfilling experience for employees. Experiencing work as meaningful is the key to long-term employee happiness and reducing disengagement and distractions.
  • For example, when JFK visited a NASA facility in the 60s he met a cleaner and enquired what she did there. “I’m helping to put a man on the moon” was her reply. There’s more to meaning at work than a higher purpose, but the principle is sound: by connecting what’s important to employees with the business mission, our work becomes a more meaningful experience.
  • A way to make this a business priority could be to nominate a leader to act as a ‘happiness ambassador’ who is formally responsible for monitoring employee happiness and promoting a positive environment and meaningful work. This person could be part of the HR team or a senior business leader.
  • This person would lead the happiness strategy which might include: developing managers on how to lead with meaning, putting in place a plan for flexible working or regular happiness chats with employees, instituting walking meetings, or having quiet (smartphone free) zones in the office.

Why is unlocking employee happiness rather than banning mobile phones key to minimising distractions in the workplace?

  • Technology has changed our relationships with work. We ask employees to use their phones to be constantly connected so it’s not as black and white as saying smartphones are bad for business.
  • If you’ve ever tried to control the amount of time your teenagers spend on their devices you’ll know that they just want to be treated like adults, and so do employees. The question we need to be asking is not ‘should we ban mobile phones?’ but ‘why employees are bored, disengaged, and unhappy?’ If we solve that then the issue of distractions will take care of itself.
  • Trust and empowerment are crucial for meaning and happiness in the workplace and form the basis of a positive work culture. Why not try asking staff how social media and smartphones should be managed in the office?
  • If a happy employee regularly checks their phone to stay connected with friends but is delivering on results, it is a win-win.

How can employee meaning and happiness at work improve an individual’s productivity and a company’s bottom-line?

  • Our research shows that when employees are happy at work they are less distracted by their phones. We know from scientific studies that the average time it takes to get back to peak concentration after a distraction is 23 minutes.
  • This aligns with countless research papers which show that happiness is an input to productivity, not an output. Happier employees engaged in meaningful work are far more productive, more creative, more engaged, less likely to take sick days, far less likely to leave the organisation, and way more likely to give their discretionary effort.
  • Given a choice between doing something genuinely meaningful and watching the latest viral cat video, employees will choose the former.



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Gali Blacher

Gali Blacher

Gali Blacher, editor, Dynamic Business

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