I like open plan offices, as it encourages communication. But does it work as well as we think?
Think about average number of distractions during an average work day…..Now take that number and multiply it by 23.
That’s how many minutes of concentration you actually lose. You see, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction.
Distractions side track you for up to a half hour!
In other words, that “30 seconds to check Twitter” isn’t just 30 seconds down the drain. It’s 23 minutes and 45 seconds. (very few of the twitter posts I read are worth that kind of investment, but perhaps I am just following the wrong people… !)
And all these distractions not only hurt effectiveness, they make us stressed, grumpy and less sharp: “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity,” Mark wrote.
Are we victims or villains?!
Interestingly enough, half the interruptions were self-inflicted. Working on a task and switching tabs to check Facebook, for example, is a self-inflicted interruption. As opposed to, say, a coworker walking over to discuss a project.
We are, essentially, playing tennis with our cognitive energies, volleying them back and forth at a moment’s notice. Only unlike a tennis ball, our brain takes a little time to switch directions. More like a really large ferry…!
And the problem isn’t just the time wasted. We’re sacrificing some of our best thinking: if you keep jumping between different topics and thoughts, how deep can you really get into a subject?!
Does this resonate with you? It does with me. I just don’t know what to do about it yet.