- The average worker can't let six minutes go by without checking incoming email or text messages, according to a new study by RescueTime, a time management app. Based on responses from 50,000 knowledge workers, RescueTime said that 40% of employees never get 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time, and that 17% can't even get 15 minutes of focused time without digital distractions.
- In other key findings, 35.5% of employees in organizations with on-demand cultures check their email or instant messages at least every three minutes. Slack users switch between communication platforms to check messages every five minutes on average, compared with non-Slack users, who check messages every eight minutes.
- Citing results from a Microsoft and University of Illinois study, RescueTime said that multi-tasking prevents employees from reaching their highest performance, and that it takes nine minutes to return to a task after an interruption.
RescueTime points out that employees must be conscious of how they use digital communication; it's important to ensure that the technology doesn't create more problems than it solves. Email and instant messaging have, in some workplaces, replaced telephone calls as office interruptions. And while instant messaging platforms aim to improve productivity by cutting time waiting on emails, apps designed to ease workflow and boost productivity often lead to communication overload for employees, a RingCentral, Inc. report found. Employees use an average of four apps for texts, phone calls, web meetings, team messaging and video conferencing.
The workplace is already a distracting environment without digital interruptions. A Udemy report found that most workers (69%) said they're distracted at work by chatty coworkers, office noise, overwhelming workplace changes and social media. But 66% won't ask for help, such as time management training to help them stay focused and more productive.
Employers might need to treat digital interruptions as time management problems, which entails helping workers learn how to control all the digital demands on their time by setting priorities. Managers can offer workers guidance on how often to check messages, which incoming messages require an immediate response and which are a low priority.