How Managers Can Help Workers Tackle Digital Distractions

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As an analyst and adviser to tech companies, futurist Brian Solis has long known the tricks that digital platforms use to get people addicted.  But he didn’t think it would happen to him. Yet, a few years ago, he fell into the trap.

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

As he describes in MIT Sloan Management Review, “the digital distraction trap” happens in businesses across all industries and affects workers of all age groups.  And 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, 62 percent of workers 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.”  70 percent of workers say training would help people block out distractions.  But 66 percent have not spoken to their managers about the need for this training, “perhaps because they feel insecure about revealing areas of perceived weakness.”

In his book Lifescale, Solis shares a series of steps that helped him regain my focus. He has also found that when those in management roles share four best practices with their teams, the results can be transformational and have exponential effects across an organization, helping to instill a healthier, more focused work environment.

Best practice #1: 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...

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