How Managers Can Help Workers Tackle Digital Distractions

To regain focus in an ever-distracting digital world, managers must not only give employees tools and training but also model the right behaviors themselves.

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As an analyst and adviser to tech companies, I’ve long known the tricks that digital platforms use to get people addicted. I didn’t think it would happen to me. But a few years ago, I fell into the trap.

Throughout the day, I could barely go a few minutes without checking notifications on my phone. My productivity suffered, as did my relationships and life outside of work.

The digital distraction trap happens in businesses across all industries and affects workers of all age groups. It’s taking a toll on worker well-being. A 2012 study estimated that digital distractions cost businesses more than $10,000 per worker per year. According to a more recent report from Udemy, nearly two-thirds of workers (62%) spend about an hour of each workday looking at their phones.

The survey found that most employers are lagging when it comes to helping employees “manage the constant barrage of noise, interruptions, and notifications in order to maintain performance.” Seventy percent of workers say training would help people block out distractions. But 66% have not spoken to their managers about the need for this training, “perhaps because they feel insecure about revealing areas of perceived weakness.”

In my book Lifescale, I share a series of steps that helped me regain my focus. I’ve also found that when those of us in management roles share best practices with our teams, the results can be transformational and have exponential effects across an organization, helping to instill a healthier, more focused work environment.

Teach the Pomodoro Technique. Starting off with strict rules such as “no looking at your phones for the next hour” won’t do much for long-term improvement and may build resentment rather than engagement on teams. We’ve been trained like Pavlov’s dog to respond to our notifications and even anticipate them. Often, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. The key is for us to unlearn this response, so we can start letting those impulses go.

One way to help unlearn these reactive practices and make better use of uninterrupted periods of time is to use the Pomodoro Technique. The goal is to focus on a single task for 25 minutes, followed by a break of about five minutes.

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