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The distraction epidemic has likely already reached your company

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We’ve managed to chalk the UK’s productivity crisis down to numerous reasons, with new research pointing towards a distraction epidemic.

“UK” and “lack of productivity” are words rarely found separate of each other – it’s a combination that has been easy to find in headlines the world over. Yet despite this, chancellor Philip Hammond said in his 2016 Autumn Statement that the news “remained shocking”.

He added: “It takes a German worker four days to produce what we make in five, which means, in turn, that too many British workers work longer hours for lower pay than their counterparts.”

Hammond’s emphasis on the UK’s long hours working culture has been echoed by many as key to our lack of productivity. As is our failure to switch off at home or on holiday, not to mention get a good night’s sleep. These are all factors spurring on the rise of depression, anxiety, stress, absenteeism and presenteeism.

David Brent phenomena was also alluded to in 2012 by the Telegraph, claiming the workforce suffered from poor management, who in turn thought they were better than they truly were.

Stir in a healthy dose of dissatisfaction and an unenviable amount of repetitive work and it’s no wonder we get easily bored and frustrated. But more importantly, following research claiming our attention span was worse than that of a goldfish, it turns out a distraction epidemic has erupted across Britain.

A Fellowes productivity report found 50 per cent of respondents were unproductive for at least an hour each day. And, on average, they were distracted every 35 minutes.

A quarter of employees blamed the office setup for the current distraction epidemic. Some one in five claimed the way desks, seats and computer screens were placed led to pain at the end of the day, with the majority suggesting working from home would boost their productivity.

Of the results, Think Productive’s productivity expert, Grace Marshall, said: “Being distracted diminishes our ability to think clearly and creatively. Many office workers find they get far more work done in the day they work from home, or the hour before everyone else gets into the office – because they have less interruptions and distractions.

“We’ve also found a four-day work week increases momentum and motivation in the office, as well as giving employees more time to enjoy life outside of the workplace. Time away from the workplace is vital for productivity. Because it is our ability to think well that increases the quality and value of our work, not how many hours we show up at the office. In fact, working longer hours diminishes our productivity as well as our wellbeing.”

Furthermore, being unproductive costs businesses £3bn a year. And once distracted, it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to gain full concentration once more.

It’s not the first time the impact of distraction has been brought to the fore. In 2015, Think Money unveiled the weather and talkative colleagues led to 759 wasted hours each year. This was in part due to high noise levels, according to three in ten of the survey’s 2,000 respondents.

A slow internet connection was cited by 23 per cent of workers, with others mentioning the temperature, gazing out of the window and uncomfortable chairs as reasons that led to the distraction epidemic.

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