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March 11, 2013 / mike54martin

Excuse me…. But I was Distracted


When I first started work, and yes the dinosaurs still roamed the earth, the workplace was kind of like a church, quiet and peaceful. The idea was to create a space where people could focus on their tasks without too many interruptions. Music, except for some piped-in Muzak, was frowned upon and even the radio was usually off-bounds. The only sounds that could be heard would be the telephone from the next office or cubicle, but those conversations were usually brief and muted.


Today I am still shocked by the noise levels and constant distractions of the modern workplace. There are phones that don’t just ring, they jingle, jangle, jive and hip-hop. Conversations are as loud and animated as the ring tones and without any real sound barriers every conversation seems to be in competition with each other. And if the aural distractions weren’t enough the whole office also looks like it’s in perpetual motion. People are coming and going to and from meetings all the time.

E-mails and Texts

And even within what used to be your oasis, your inner sanctum there is no rest from the distractions. E-mails and text messages have not replaced regular correspondence or communication they have obliterated it. Electronic messaging has now become the ‘work’ that people do when they come to work and every time that e-mail beeps a worker has to, just has to, respond.


Here’s some data to chew on, when you have time, probably after work. Today an average worker, according to The Wall Street Journal, may spend up to half of their day just reading and responding to e-mails. And on average, according to research by Stanford University, they are interrupted every 3 minutes. This same research says that it takes up to 23 minutes for a worker to return to their original task.

As I was just saying… what was I saying again?

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and workplace wellness consultant. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People.

He is also the author of the Windflower Mystery series. His new book The Body on the T will be out on May 1, 2013.

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