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Distraction at Work Impacts Effectiveness and Productivity

Normal IT crowd sit in cubicles. Your nearest neighbor sits within a hand-wave and you can hear every single conversation and all the human sounds such as coughs within a couple of meters radius.

This distraction you might consider as normal and natural, and something that you cannot help.

Let me continue further. While you work on your chores, you check your emails every now and then, pop your cell phone out of your pocket to check Facebook updates and Whatsapp messages.

In short, you are being constantly bombarded with interruptions (most are self-inflicted) and distractions.

How does it affect your work product? Are you good enough to oversee these interruptions and produce at the same rate and accuracy as you would without distractions?

A study was conducted by researchers at Michigan State University. 300 students were asked to solve a complex multi-step problem on a computer. After every few steps, a captcha would appear and the students were expected to key in the characters to get rid of it and continue with their solving activity.

In the first trial, the captcha required users to key in 4 characters. On an average, they took 4.4 seconds. In the second trial, the captcha length was 2 characters and it took an average of 2.8 seconds.

The study revealed that students made mistakes 3 times more than usual during the first trial and twice the number of mistakes in the second trial.

The study concluded that distractions do cost our effectiveness and productivity dearly.

The mistakes are a result of three main factors according to the study:
1. When you are working on the interruption, you are working with irrelevant information to that of your work currently in hand.

2. Distractions makes you lose your flow of thought. When you try to get back to work from an interruption, it takes tremendous amount of mental strength to refocus on your work.

3. Interruptions screws your ability to recall information.

To summarize, it is within our grasp to set up a distraction-free environment by keeping the data turned off on our phones and staying away from the websites that we love to browse.

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