Technology Can Drive Employees to Distraction

A Ricoh survey suggests that while access to technology can bring benefits to businesses and their employees, it also leaves them open to distraction.

IT management and Ricoh

While technology today is seen as providing tremendous opportunities for increasing worker productivity, it can also cause the inverse effect by offering up a bevy of distractions that pull employees off track.

According to a Ricoh Americas online survey of more than 1,000 employed adults in the United States conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Ricoh this August, three out of four workers (76 percent) check personal email and three out of five (61 percent) take personal calls.

In addition, two out of three (67 percent) text using a mobile phone at least once a week while on the job.

Terrie Campbell, vice president of strategic marketing at Ricoh Americas, told eWEEK there are several ways employers can encourage productivity through IT without opening windows to distraction.

"Openly discuss the challenges of staying focused, and set boundaries. You probably don’t want to ban personal calls, but games--why not?" Campbell said. "And rather than policing device usage and Web surfing, make sure you set measurable goals around overall productivity and quality. In other words, try to measure the result, not the process."

She said mobile technology is redefining productivity for the average employee, but it’s a double-edged sword or, as they are calling it, a "connectivity conundrum."

Campbell said this conundrum threatens to undermine companies’ hard-won information mobility, a state where the precise business information employees need is instantly accessible wherever and whenever it’s required to conquer the challenge at hand.

"On one hand, workers are always accessible, and ideally, they have 24/7 access to work resources," Campbell explained. "On the other, the same technology provides a gateway to distractions such as texting friends, the social networks and the games."

Workers ages 18-34 are nearly twice as likely to post to social media account(s) as those ages 35-64 (49 percent versus 28 percent, respectively) and play games (50 percent vs. 25 percent) at least weekly.

Ricoh also offered a few suggestions on how to tackle the problem, such as measuring workers results rather than focusing on rooting out distractions and measuring compliance.

For example, if they’re expected to assemble 500 widgets a day, and they reach that goal, it may not matter how they allocate their time.

The company also recommends creating a working culture as appealing as the distractions. This means attempting to make work fun, and ensure everyone is challenged and stimulated—as well as evenly distributing the appealing work and the more mundane tasks.