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Nearly a fifth say distractions improve productivity

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Managers were most likely to admit spending time at the water cooler or in the break room

Almost one in five (18%) employees believe workplace distractions can enhance their productivity, according to research from software provider BambooHR.

The most popular distracting activity believed to help productivity was taking a trip to the break room or water cooler, following by enjoying a lunch break and talking with family. Using social media, however, was chosen as the least helpful distraction.

Managers were the most likely to admit spending time at the water cooler or break room, with 19% claiming they spend more than 30 minutes a day there. The most popular distraction among lower-level employees was surfing the web, with 11% admitting to using it for more than 30 minutes a day. Only 4% of lower-level employees said they spent more than half an hour a day using the bathroom, but 11% of managers claimed they do.

Rusty Lindquist, VP of insights and HCM strategy at BambooHR, told HR magazine that taking regular breaks can substantially boost productivity.

“The brain uses more energy than any other human organ, consuming as much as 20% of the body’s total energy,” he said. “When over-fatigued our muscles have a clear and rather painful feedback system, causing cramping and pain.

“But the brain, which also becomes over-fatigued, is far more subtle in its feedback. Concentration becomes harder, we get distracted, we don’t think clearly, and we become unproductive, struggling to make even minor progress on the smallest of intellectual tasks.”

He added that having a break can help the brain recover. “Taking a walk to let the head clear is a very real benefit,” he said. “Your brain lets go of what was in short-term memory, allowing you to come back to the task and discover new approaches to an old problem as your brain starts over.”

Further reading

Download HR magazine's free ebook on improving productivity at work, in association with IBM. Find out more about the Reclaim Your Time ebook here.