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Every office runs into some form of distraction that plagues the workplace. Distractions are incredibly common and can damage productivity and employee morale.
Related: 5 Distractions That Are Productivity Poison (and How to Avoid Them)
In fact, a 2015 survey from Oxford Economics found that employee satisfaction and productivity are affected quite negatively by distractions in the workplace specifically caused by cubicle setups. However, cubicle farms aren’t the only reasons distractions occur.
Here are some of the most common distractions plaguing the workplace and how employers can overcome them:
Overly strict policies
When it comes to culture, a lot of employers like to enforce a set of policies to encourage employees to arrive on time. Punctuality is obviously important to consider in order to run a successful organization.
However, overly strict policies can be more stress-inducing. If employees are worried and hurry during their traffic-heavy commute, they’re starting off the day on a bad foot. This can hurt overall employee morale, especially for those who travel long distances five days a week. They may be showing up to work already drained and frustrated, as a result.
Instead, focus more on building a culture that celebrates employees who are productive and “A” players. A strong message employers can send is that punctuality is important, but what’s more important is performance.
Encourage punctuality, but recognize that resorting to harsh punishments for tardiness may be extreme. Instead, offer flextime or show more flexibility, as long as tardiness doesn’t impact productivity. In fact, an April 2016 survey from Fairygodboss found that flexible hours were nearly as important to those surveyed as compensation is to surveys specializing in female respondents.
If you’re blanking on the flexibility angle, there are several ways you can add flexibility to the workday. For example, some companies set “flex hours,” where employees can come in during a certain time frame in the morning and stay earlier or later, depending on when they arrive. For example, an employee could arrive between 9:30 and 10:30 am and then stay until some time between 6:30 and 7:30 pm. This would allow the employee an opportunity to pace his or her day in a way that’s comfortable.
Related: Distractions Are the Enemy of Good: 3 Ways to Minimize Them
While noise can certainly impact an employee’s ability to focus, what’s even more distracting is office politics. Simply put, favoritism and politics have no role in the workplace.
If certain staff members are trying to undermine others and gain favor, employees will lose their concentration. Plus, a dog-eat-dog mentality will be created and damage employee morale.
Instead, stick to the facts — use performance data to reward those who actually deserve it. Performance metrics help highlight the true “A” players. When employers compare levels of productivity, it’s clear who deserves praise.
Recognition and advancement opportunities belong to the best workers, not those who “suck up” to management. Let each employee’s performance numbers speak for himself or herself.
Many employers hide behind a common misconception: If they set big goals, employees will be pushed to exceed expectations and reach peak performance. These are commonly referred to as “stretch goals,” which are set beyond current capabilities.
As a June study from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences found, stretch goals actually undermine performance for most organizations — 80 percent of participants at the companies surveyed had failed to reach their assigned stretch goal.
These kinds of expectations actually hurt employee morale and may even negatively impact productivity. Employees may become preoccupied with worrying about unrealistic objectives instead of focusing on their performance. They may feel that they’ve been set up to fail.
Instead, collaborate with your company talent to set goals those employees agree on. Talk with each employee about what goals are more realistic, then schedule ongoing discussions. This way, they can speak up if they’re feeling overworked, and continually look at their performance to track their progress toward goals.
Organizations should make employee morale a priority. If they build a culture on unrealistic demands, strict policies and politicking, talent gets distracted and their performance suffers.
Related: 3 Ways to Avoid Distractions and Be More Productive
However, if employees feel excited about their goals and engaged in a positive culture, and if they can feel less stressed about policies, they can concentrate on what matters most — their work.