6 Startling Statistics about Interruptions at Work

Posted by Susan Cullen on December 20, 2019

Interruptions_at_work_BlogMeet Anya. She is a financial analyst. Anya is interrupted at work 5 times or more each hour, and she’s always pressed to get reports in on time. 

Anya works in an open-office setting. Instead of in a cubicle, her desk is in the open, grouped with her team members’ work stations. She begins working on a report. Jason, a coworker, stops by for a chat. They don’t talk for very long, but when she returns to her report, Anya has to find her place and refocus.

Then she gets a pop-up message on her desktop from someone at her company’s office in Nashville, Tennessee. He has a question about a new mutual fund.

Then Anya gets a desktop alert that a new email just came in. The alert says, “New email, Subj: Your Vacation Request”. She goes to her inbox to read the message. She gets back to her report. After a few minutes, Anya’s phone chimes. She checks the text. The electric company received payment for her bill.

Back to the report. Again, she lost her place and has to find where she left off. She finally gets some momentum about ten minutes before her lunch break. So she logs off her computer for a 30-minute lunch. Anya gets back from lunch. She had a chance to clear her head and feels like she’s ready to tackle the report.

Just as Anya gets rolling on the report, her phone chimes an alert. She thinks, “I’ll take a quick look.” It’s a Facebook post from her brother. He just posted a funny dog video. She clicks the “Ha, ha!” emoji.

Her coworker Jenny stops by for a brief chat. Back to the report. After a few minutes, a desktop alert tells her that she has a new email. It’s marked “urgent.” It’s HR’s open enrollment reminder, marked urgent even though there are still two weeks left.

Anya notices the time and starts to panic. The report is due at 4:00 and she’s barely started. Sound like Anya’s having a bad day? Or does it sound like a typical day? Sadly, many workers can’t get their work done because of too many interruptions.

It’s a big problem...

#1 Interruptions at Work Cost Up To 6 Hours of Productivity

“You got a minute?” Of course, you know it’s more than one minute. A steady stream of walk-up interruptions and it’s impossible to get momentum on a project. 

According to efficiency and workflow consultant Edward G. Brown, needless interruptions cost a company 6.2 hours a day. That’s 31 hours a week - it’s like having one less worker.

#2 You Need Nearly a Half Hour to Refocus

According to research from the University of California, Irvine led by Gloria Mark, it takes 23 minutes or more to refocus after an interruption. Even if the interruption was only 5 minutes, you lose 28 minutes of productivity. 

#3 40% Of Workers Interrupt Themselves

Walk-up interruptions, telephone calls, and last-minute meetings eat up a lot of time. Yet a lot of interruptions come from checking emails, text messages, and social media posts.

About 44% of the time, employees interrupt themselves.

#4 Interruptions Increase Mistakes

Your work suffers in quality as well as quantity. A Michigan State University study shows that even short interruptions, like checking a text on your phone, make you twice as likely to make mistakes in your work.

#5 The Multitasking Myth

When we “multitask,” we’re really switching attention from one task to another. Research from Stanford University shows that task switching takes its toll on memory and focus. 

Heavy multitaskers may think they are more efficient. According to Dr. Christopher Nass, professor of communications at Stanford, they’re not.

  • They can’t effectively filter out irrelevant data.
  • They’re chronically distracted.
  • They lose the ability to focus.

#6 Interruptions Through Social Media Cost the US Economy $650 Billion Per Year

That’s the cost of a single year of interruptions from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace (yes, it still exists), SnapChat…

You Can’t Stop All Workplace Interruptions

It’s not possible to eliminate all interruptions at work. It’s not practical either. There are good reasons why you should make yourself available to your employees and coworkers.

  • It shows you’re accessible.
  • Demonstrates you’re involved in team efforts.
  • Keeps you engaged in the goals of your department and the company.

But you can’t get your projects done with all the interruptions. How can we fix that?

Proactive Steps To Handle Interruptions at Work

Now we know that interruptions at work are expensive, time-consuming and, arguably worst of all, are frustrating. But there are a few things you can do to get ahead of the game and minimize interruptions during your workday. 

Prioritize

Which tasks you do first will depend on the project, but it’s important to list priorities. It gives you a framework with which to do the job.

Schedule Time Blocks

Remember, you can’t avoid all interruptions all the time. But you can schedule blocks of time for uninterrupted work on your projects. A couple of two-hour chunks on your calendar a day where you can work without interruptions will give you the chance to get a lot done.

Work At a Different Location

Work on your project someplace other than your usual station. If your workplace has conference rooms, book one for your scheduled work blocks. If company policy allows, work remotely 

Turn Notifications Off

Put your smartphone in airplane mode. Turn off desktop email alerts and log out of IM. That way you can work without the temptation to check your email and social media posts.

Final Thoughts

Anya needs to curtail interruptions to get things done. With a few small changes, she can get back hours of productivity.

Now is the time to get your time management goals on track. 

To learn more about how time management can increase productivity for you and your team, download our FREE whitepaper

Topics: Time Management

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG

Start your day inspired!

Subscribe and receive morning motivational quotes delivered to your inbox!

Subscribe to Morning Motivational Quotes