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Is your mobile phone getting you distracted at work?

Published: Wednesday 10th March 2021

With lots of people working from home for much of the last year, productivity has been brought into sharp focus. Employers have had to learn to trust staff to stay motivated and work professionally whilst away from prying eyes. However, it’s our trusty and reliable mobile phones that are getting us most distracted at work.

Man getting distracted at work by his mobile phone

On average people in the UK spend 2 hours per day on their mobile phones. It seems like a lot when you bulk it together. But 10 minutes here and there throughout the day quickly adds up. Apps such as TikTok and YouTube are two of the biggest causes for concern with sessions on these apps both exceeding other social media platforms.

So are you letting your mobile phone distract you at work? Are you doing anything to try and combat the urge to check social media throughout the day? Is it as much of a concern as it’s made out? Well, we have all the answers, starting with our tips on how to avoid distractions at work.

Out of sight out of mind

We keep our phones close by whenever they’re not on charge, be that in a pocket or on our desks. But sometimes the best policy is to create a boundary between you and your phone. It is common mobile phone etiquette at work to turn off your phone or not use it unless you’re on a break. This isn’t something that is always enforced by employers, who understand that phones are just part of our lives. Employers won’t accept a drop in productivity, so you need to avoid letting it eat into your working hours.

There is nothing wrong with responding to messages or returning personal calls while at work, just be sure to be clear you’re at work and have limited time available. The issue stems more from social media apps, games and video/music streaming services. These types of apps can decrease your productivity by more than 25%. That’s roughly 15 minutes of every hour worked that you’ve lost.

Women in a hard hat getting distracted at work on her phone

If this is something that creates problems for you, such as working late or missing targets then start leaving your phone in another room, in a locked draw, or turned off. Use it only on assigned break times.

Make up the time

Some people prefer to check their phones for 5-10 minutes every hour throughout the day and work through their lunch break. This is a commonly accepted practice, similar to smoke breaks. Most managers can forgive you using your phone, if you work late and tick off your daily jobs. As long as the work is done, what’s the harm? This is only really true in office environments.

Using mobile phones in some jobs can be a deadly distraction. If you work in a hazardous environment, there is no amount of time you can make up if you end up in the hospital because of an injury sustained from not paying attention.

Fight fire with fire

Technology is causing the problem. So maybe you can use technology to fix the problem. You can use an app called ‘Forest’ for Android or iOS that will help you limit the time you use your phone in a day by making it a challenging game. You set the timer for how long you want to avoid using your phone for. Your tree will only grow if you avoid using your phone during that time.

Forest App Screen shot

This is all designed to improve your ability to focus. You can also use your phone as a speaker to play music. Not only can the music help motivate you to work, but it can occupy your phone and make it less likely for you to use it.

Schedule your breaks

Sometimes when working from home, the idea of being in a familiar environment with no set break times means we’re more easily lured into a browsing session on our mobile phone. You can avoid this bad habit and stay on task by having set break times. Take just 5 minutes every hour to make a drink, have a walk around the house or office, use your phone and let your mind have a breather. Then make sure you take a full lunch break away from your desk.

Try to associate being at your desk with work. Give it your full attention and avoid checking your phone outside of break times. If you’re easily distracted at work then this is a great idea to try and condition yourself to remain switched on while working.

Man walking away from his desk on a mobile phone

You don’t know what you can’t see

Turning off your notifications is a great way to avoid getting distracted at work. Mobile phones and productivity at work are connected. If you want to keep your boss happy, reducing the time spent on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram will help you stay on track. Push notifications are like free shots at a bar. You aren’t going to say no. But the truth is, you end up buying a drink and staying longer than you’d planned.

Disable app notifications during the working day and keep your mind clear of temptation. You can still stay connected by checking your favourite apps on your breaks. You don’t need a push notification to tell you everything that’s happening throughout the day, or who’s birthday it is.

Finding the balance to avoid getting distracted at work

As with anything, the correct approach to this is finding a balance that works for you. Using your phone doesn’t have to be a really unprofessional and frowned upon thing. But you shouldn’t abuse your freedom to use your phone by letting it impact your productivity.

If you need complete separation from your phone to boost your productivity then you can turn it off or leave it out of reach, but you may find it easier to simply remove notifications or schedule your usage. Your brain needs a short break away from reports and numbers every now and again, so a 5 minute social media binge might just be the way you choose to relax your mind.

It’s important to always follow your employers guidelines regarding mobile phone usage while at work. You should stick to the same policy if you’re working from home as well.

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