How to Reduce Technology Distractions
Research by Citrix and Forrester reveals critical insights for the corporate sector that circles around how productivity is driven and inhibited in organizations. Some of these are listed below:
- Surprisingly, the IT department does not call the shots in technological investments of organizations. Studies suggest that only 12% of these decisions are under the control of IT departments. Infrastructure and operations (I&O) are responsible for designing a focused technology experience.
- A considerable chunk of global information workers – forty percent – circumnavigates an IT policy to sustain productivity.
- In 2016, around 32% of global information workers revealed that their PCs had performance bugs, and other issues that distracted them from work.
- Today, knowledge workers fall into the trap of distraction every 10 minutes. Afterwards, they need another 23 minutes to recover their focus.
As a Citrix partner, Ronald van Loon has been able to analyze the details of Citrix and Forrester’s research to provide his views on the state of workplace technological distraction and the relation to new intelligent technologies.
The Under-Rated Asset
Human resources make up 60% of the entire operating costs in an organization. Therefore, managing the workforce holds the key for management to maintain and increase their profits. While IT was expected to come as a harbinger of change, that can elevate workplace productivity to uncharted heights, new evidence suggests that this is clearly not the case. Instead, the productivity of employees is experiencing a gradual decline due to the complexity of current IT strategies and policies.
A detailed analysis of the research from Citrix’s Forrester report reveals many highlights, one being that technology leaders can take charge and construct workspace environments that can meet the following goals:
- Bring down IT complexity.
- Eliminate distractions that contribute to employee loss of focus.
- Introduce policies that boost employee productivity.
The growth of AI and cloud computing has given organizations a wide range of benefits and abilities, such as tailoring their product offerings, determining credit card frauds, and personalizing ads. Similarly, the cloud has been used to get rid of the costly maintenance of an on-premise IT architecture. However, while leveraging all these opportunities, companies lose track of the other side – how technologies can limit the performance of its costliest asset: employees.
As technology is more and more integrated into businesses, it has become more decisive than ever to ensure that they make strategic technological investments. The main idea is to promote an environment that focuses on boosting productivity in the workplace while eliminating distraction. Such investments will streamline IT solutions and save company staff from juggling between multiple applications.
Leading Contributors of Workplace Distraction
Strategizing Investments in Technologies
While companies make technology-related investments to take their efficiency to the next level, they fail to implement them properly, which is why they go on to become distractions for the company personnel. An Affective Computing study (from the University of California, Microsoft and the MIT Media Lab) suggests that emails alone can cause employees to lose 1.5 hours daily. Meanwhile, an idle smartphone may seem harmless, but it is a distracting cognitive load, which can undermine an employee’s working memory and deteriorate their critical thinking skills.
Physical distractions that have proven to break the concentration of employees include: :
- Coworkers stopping by a peer’s work desk.
- Coworkers making phone calls or talking while near their colleagues.
Interestingly, tending to customers can also be distracting. Customers need 24/7 availability. To meet their expectations, employees attempt to reply to their calls and messages with the utmost urgency. However, this hyper connectivity makes them compromise on their work quality, leaving valuable and complex work sidelined and left undone.
Around 90% of Americans have their mobiles within arm’s reach, whereas 36% admit that they never switch it off. This unhealthy addiction translates into a loss of output at work. Firstly, the influx of notifications messes up the brain’s dopamine response pathways, losing their focus. Secondly, the constant use of mobiles depletes their finite cognitive resources.
What Can the Technology Leaders Do in the Mayhem?
The role of technology leaders is crucial in managing these work-related diversions. They must invest in a digital workplace that is less complex. Digital tools that are introduced must be simple, available, and accessible. Similarly, they must adhere to and promote compliance, security, and governance. Other steps include:
- Observe and fix events that can hamper user experience in the office. Hardware and software never run flawlessly in any company. Leadership must monitor these issues, keep users in the loop, and repair them on an immediate basis.
- Work culture itself can increase the likelihood of distractions. HR and other executives must establish a work culture that promotes a healthy combination of connectivity and focus.
The Four Pillar Technology Strategy
By focusing on the following major areas, companies can promote an efficient use of technology and save their work environments from the distracting drawbacks of modern technologies.
Build Technology Environment That Encourages Focus
I&O professionals can reduce distracting issues by implementing technologies that fit the following requirements.
- Restrict context switching and multitasking. The human brain weakens due to intensive multitasking. In such a scenario, Citrix Workspace arranges and standardizes employee data by unifying access to SaaS, virtual desktops, network drives, cloud, and other applications in a single integrated workspace.
- Technology must be reliable and work quickly without causing any downtime. Technology must motivate employees to switch off their tools. They need functionality through which they can block notifications and customize them to appear at specific times.
Ensure Policies Don’t Introduce Distraction into Employees’ Work
Distractions can threaten productivity at any time. I&O management needs to avoid inflicting any negative impact on productivity during the enforcement of policies.
- Restrict the impact of application and OS updates. Implement solutions that can have controlled updates, both on the system and application level.
- Many companies have an ineffective login system on their devices and applications. You can consider IDaaS solutions through which you can get a single sign-on to your SaaS applications, or look into conditional access policies.
- Analyze the relationship between your security policies and productivity, and . target an approach that maintains an effective cybersecurity policy while maintaining productivity levels. Continuously Assess Workplace Distraction
You must monitor the end-user experience if you are committed to the restriction of workplace distraction. This is because technology experience declines with the passage of time. Consider the following monitoring technologies:
- Look into vendors like Nexthink, Lakeside, and Aternity for monitoring tools that examine the performance and health of services, applications, and devices. In this way, it is easy to identify and repair issues that can act as distractions to the employees. Modern AI-based tools apply sentiment analysis to report to I&O management on how different employees feel about their digital user experiences. This can be pivotal for providing bespoke user experiences to your staff.
- Introduce workforce analytics tools to resolve cultural barriers for focus. For instance, Sapience Analytics and Microsoft’s Workplace Analytics record, process, characterize and order an employee’s digital exhaust. Such tools determine the root cause of system issues and can smartly indicate employees to put a stop to their focus time as soon as the appointments on their calendars increase.
Work with Business Peers to Drive Awareness of Distractions
IT leaders must collaborate with business executives for the creation of an effective workplace distraction strategy that considers the following:
- Provide ample space to employees so they can “disconnect,” rejuvenate their minds, and concentrate on the more complex tasks. Often, noisy work environments limit productivity and affect the cognitive capacity of employees. Companies must provide flexibility to employees where they need to work. For instance, they can allocate dedicated rooms in which the use of cell phones or any other noise-creating equipment is prohibited.
Remembering the Primary Stakeholder of Any Tech Strategy
Any technological strategy must be planned and designed around “people.” Today, various organizations have implemented the latest smart technologies like AI and cloud in a bid to modernize and improve solutions, services, and user experiences – for both their customers and employees.
However, if such solutions instead create complexity and hamper work output and productivity, then they are not a viable solution. Business leadership has to consider technology via an editorial perspective and pick and choose only solutions that can actually bring a positive influence to their organization.
The Role of Tech Leaders in Curbing Workplace Distraction
I&O professionals need to improve company performance by designing technology environments that enable focus, limit distraction, and enhance productivity. They can start from the following.
- Look into all the user-facing technologies – such as devices, management tools, collaboration, applications, networking, and storage items – that are used by employees on a daily basis.
- Perform research on what are the leading causes of workplace distraction. Companies must focus on an in-depth review of their employees’ journey and discover hurdles that prevent them from completing their work.
- Remove unhelpful technologies. This can be done by slowly taking out those tools that are not required by employees.
Both technology and employees must be empowered to adapt to constantly changing expectations. Citrix’s technology fulfills the requirements of workers with an intuitive, powerful, and non-disrupting technology. In this way, employees can meet their colleagues and their ever-changing expectations on how and where they desire to work, regardless if it is cloud-based solutions, new devices, or innovation.
Gartner defines augmented intelligence as a “human-centered partnership model of people and AI working together to enhance cognitive performance. This includes learning, decision making and new experiences.”
Role of AI and Cloud in the Workplace
AI, Cloud, and other latest technologies have the potential to modify human skills in the workplace. AI can enhance collaboration between humans, restricting barriers and silos and making way for cross-organizational collaboration and increased efficienciese.AI can also eliminate human errors out of the equation.
Arguably the strongest benefit of AI is its capability to strengthen the collective intelligence and intellectual diversity in a work environment. Humans and machines can complement each other, so a lot of different inventive ideas could be discussed for displaying the might of AI.
The Need for Seamless Integration of User-Friendly Technologies in the Workplace
As an IT leader, you can encourage a better user experience and help boost productivity by examining solutions like Citrix Workspace, which is constructed with features to help organize, guide and automate an employee’s work. With it, you can ensure that your workforce can easily switch between multiple applications within a unified platform – reducing noise and aggregating all relevant content, data, apps and desktops needed to get work done. Some enhanced capabilities of Citrix Workspace include:
- Universal search
- Personalized information feeds
- Workflow automation, which harnesses machine learning to identify opportunities for the simplification and automation of batch repetitive tasks.
Who Holds the Responsibility to Address Distractions
In the current age, the burden falls on the shoulders of organizations and their individual employees to resolve the dilemma of distraction. Hardware and software manufacturers also have a critical role to play. For instance, recently, Apple has toned down the addictive features in its iPhones in the form of screen-time updates in iOS 12. Similarly, Google introduced Digital Wellbeing to ensure that Android apps can offer higher value.
It has become necessary to ensure that everyone is cooperating in decreasing workplace-based complexities and streamlining technologies to promote a more productive work environment where:
- Everyone can communicate with other.
- Everyone can work efficiently without wasting resources.
- Everyone can access only that data which they require and use only the most integral technologies.
Companies are flocking towards the use of modern technologies because the competition in each industry is fierce. Therefore, to stay relevant and beat their competitors, they rely on these technologies. But, they must be careful during the implementation of these technologies, or they may have to contend with its side effects.
A better strategy would be to ensure that you have set a harmonious balance between your workers and technologies. A work environment that fully utilizes the technology to its maximum without suffering from its distractions is ultimately going to reach the peak of productivity levels.
By Ronald van Loon
Ronald has been recognized as one of the top 10 Global Big Data, IoT, Data Science, Predictive Analytics, Business Intelligence Influencer by Onalytica, Data Science Central, Klout, Dataconomy, is author for leading Big Data sites like The Economist, Datafloq and Data Science Central.