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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Workplace Distractions? Engagement Is the Real Antidote

We are so distracted at work that we can't pay attention to our work.

That's the problem highlighted by an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning headlined, "Here's Why You Won't Finish This Article."

The piece points out that distraction at the office, while hardly a new phenomenon, has reached "epidemic" proportions "and is affecting business."

Few office workers can go more than a few minutes these days without being interrupted by a phone call, text message, e-mail alert or interruption at their desk -- or, perhaps more to blame, succumbing to the temptation to create their own such diversions.

"It is an epidemic," Lacy Roberson, a director of learning and organizational development at eBay Inc., told the newspaper. At most companies, it's a struggle "to get work done on a daily basis, with all these things coming at you."

What are we as business leaders to do? Some, the Journal said, are trying to limit emails; some are banning electronic devices during certain meetings; others are cutting the number of projects workers can tackle at one time.

But you certainly can't fight the sources of this phenomenon: The world of work and communication has changed forever, mainly because of digital technologies and evolving cultural norms, and we can't put the genie back in the bottle.

So let us suggest, instead, that the real solution is to create a team so engaged and involved in their work that the distraction factor becomes essentially a non-issue.

If a company's productivity is rising because its workforce is motivated by a sense of mission and purpose, and is stoked by success, such an enterprise will rise above the "epidemic" of distractions like an elephant flicking away gnats. The drag on productivity from today's fragmented work style will be far more than offset by the dramatic results of employee engagement.

So focusing on engagement is the key. Distractions will no longer distract as much. And when they do, it won't matter as much.

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