Fatal Distraction

22.06.23 03:47 PM

From the Big 4 to now, the Big 5 Addictions

In the 1987 psychological thriller "Fatal Attraction", (I can't believe that movie is now 36 years old!), the root of the "fatal attraction" is the addiction to sex. Addictions to things like sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling, food (too much or too little), work, exercise, social media, gaming and adrenaline highs (the need to put oneself in dangerous situations) are attractions that are dangerous, in one way or another, to the user. We've known for a very long time that the Big 4 addictions- Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling and Sex are extremely destructive- to people, relationships, workplaces and homes. Study after study has shown that people don't just fall into addiction for the fun of it, but instead, are almost always numbing or masking some sort of pain in their lives. 

Here's an idea- Aren’t attractions and distractions really flip sides of the same coin? We use the vices of attraction or in the extreme, addictions to numb ourselves to realities in our lives that have become seemingly unbearable. In other words, the attractions have themselves become distractions from what we need and want to accomplish in our personal and professional lives. Attractions/distractions offer an alternative reality which allows us to escape from those things that require focus, effort, application, commitment, concentration and work.

I would argue that distraction in and of itself has become the newest big addiction in our society today. On a large scale, and I believe, as a result of the recent pandemic, mental health issue and concerns are at an all time high (that can be easily confirmed and verified) and that people- afraid to be seen as an alcoholic, addict, etc are turning to the numbing agent of distraction to drift away from their pain and into fantasy.  

For the purpose of this article today, let's focus on the workplace implications of distraction.

What causes distraction?
Distraction is caused by the lack of ability to focus (pay attention); a lack of interest in the subject matter or topic, or an intense, novel or attractive appeal of something other than the subject or topic at hand. Let's tie this discussion back to the workplace- the businesses that we own and operate.

How distraction manifests itself in business is destructive, and impacts a business’ bottom line. Smartphones, the internet, social media and email are among the 10 biggest workplace productivity killers. They are the root cause of employee time theft. Yep, time theft. 

The primary distractive culprits are excessive emails, meaningless meetings and constant interruptions. On average, a worker checks their email 36 times in an hour and then requires 16 minutes to refocus after dealing with the email. This leaves only 8 minutes of uninterrupted, productive work time

When attending excess numbers of potentially ineffective, time-robbing meetings, studies have shown that 91 percent of attendees said they daydreamed during those meetings. 

In addition, it takes workers two hours per day to recover from interruptions by coworkers. Having to repeatedly shift their attention from one interruption or distraction to another results in an average of 60 percent or less of actual, productive work time. 

Productivity loss may cause a longer workday which can lead to decreased employee engagement and/or efficiency and overall dissatisfaction with their work. These fatal distractions result in a business’ lower than projected bottom line. 

So, what is necessary to separate oneself from those destructive attractions?

Boosting productivity despite distractions

There is no simple answer to tackling employee distractions; however, there are calculated steps to help everyone experience more productive workdays. Here are some tips:
1. Keep records. Write down the tasks you accomplish at work and note when distractions pop up in a log. ...

2. Set your priorities straight. ...

3. Block your time. ...

5. Limit your correspondence time. ...

6. Take breaks. ...

7. Control your smartphone.

These are challenges to employees who have become addicted to habits that distract. They require a willingness to change patterns of behaviour and motivation to transform an unproductive day to one that brings them satisfaction in achievement, increased engagement and investment in their work.

Simply informing employees that things must change will not work. That's been proven as well. Setting a strategy in place to support employees, understand their struggles and create new ways of ensuring greater productivity while protecting your bottom line requires fresh thinking. Having an external coach help in this process of change will support the employer and make employees realize that the boss means business. Let's talk about how this issue may be a reality in your business.  The coffee's on me. Click HERE to book a meeting.

Jeff Walters