Help your team increase productivity and job satisfaction.

Technology makes it possible to stay productive anytime, anywhere. From the office to a remote workspace, modern digital tools allow employees to create, collaborate, and communicate without missing a beat.

Technology in the workplace can be a double-edged sword.

COVID-19 pushed some workers to their home office and many new collaboration tools were introduced to ease communication between remote workers.

Has your company gone overboard in an effort to help your workforce?

Some employees are now responsible for responding to personal and group IMs in Microsoft Teams, emails in Outlook, text messages on their work phones, and more.  While it’s helpful to have easy communication tools for your team members, it can be overwhelming and become a distraction to productivity.

Digital distractions can take the form of anything that happens on an electronic device that lures a user away from the task at hand. An incoming notification for a new text message or email, for instance, can seamlessly intrude on the screen of any laptop or smartphone and usurp the user’s attention.

To keep employees healthy, productive, and responsive, companies should help employees stay away from digital distractions by encouraging positive work habits. Acknowledging that it’s okay to occasionally step away from the computer, for instance, can let workers know that they’re allowed to take breaks throughout the day just as they did when they worked in the office. Building habits that make employees more productive and less stressed out can help improve overall job satisfaction and employee happiness.

Here are three strategies companies can use to fight digital distractions:

Set a specific policy on when employees are expected to be available

For good and for bad, Slack, Skype, email, and texting make it possible to reach employees around the clock. Although it’s great to know that workers can be ready to respond at a moment’s notice, that doesn’t mean they should be expected to be available 24/7. Creating an environment in which employees feel they must always be on alert can push them too far where they will eventually disengage because they feel overwhelmed.

Whether it’s in the office or through a remote work arrangement, it’s important to establish clear times when employees are expected to be available. Expecting employees to remain at full attention during an eight-hour shift can easily create an environment rich for digital distraction. Instead, consider setting aside shorter blocks of time specifically intended for employee collaboration to ensure their full attention is available when it’s needed most.

Urge employees to take breaks

It’s important for employees to stay productive, but staring into a computer screen for hours on end isn’t good for one’s physical or mental health. And because it’s so easy to lose track of time when working on a project, employees may find themselves sitting more than they had originally intended.

Briefly disconnecting at regular intervals allows employees to get an important and necessary respite from the digital world. Whether it’s to grab a cup of coffee or to take a brief stroll through a neighborhood park, encouraging employees to tune out their electronics for just a few minutes can help break up the monotony of using a keyboard and mouse for extended periods of time.

Encourage periods of focus

Even with the best-laid plans, digital distractions can easily creep into a well-organized day. Helping employees establish positive work habits can help reduce their urge to drift away from their typical responsibilities throughout the day.

One technique to reduce digital distraction is to use a timer to carve out specific blocks of time for pure, uninterrupted focus. The Pomodoro Technique, for instance, uses a 25-minute timer to establish a burst of productivity before permitting the user to go on a short break. Helping employees alternate between periods of deep focus and moments of rest can help them resist the urge to pursue typical distractions.

Building habits to reduce digital distraction

While there’s no such thing as a distraction-free workplace, establishing policies that help employees disconnect and recharge throughout the day can help fight fatigue caused by staring at a computer screen all day. By setting up clear time periods of availability, encouraging breaks, and helping workers build periods of dedicated focus, employees can structure productive days that allow for intentional moments of rest.