The Attention Span of the Average Employee

I read an article earlier this week about how short the average employee’s attention span is at work – an estimated three minutes. I found the article to be true from my experience. Given that my computer is always in front of me, I can’t help to glance over every other minute to see if a new email has come in. Regardless of what I am doing on my computer, a message appears in the lower right-hand corner of my screen when a new email hits my inbox. I usually stop whatever I’m doing and click over to my inbox to open and read the email. Sometimes I may even respond right away, putting aside whatever else I was doing prior to receiving the email. Of course, I check my personal emails at work, the day’s news and my favorite websites as well, adding more to my “to do” list and another layer of distractions to the already busy day. And this is all without making and receiving phone calls, people stopping by my office, and the other meetings and functions I choose to or am forced to attend. It’s a good thing that my work blocks facebook, or I would be checking that occasionally too. (If they were wise, they would block blogs, Linked In, Twitter or any number of time-consuming sites as well; but thankfully they don’t). With all of this going on, it’s amazing that I find time to review those long agreements or get anything else done at all.  

To combat distractions in the workplace and put employees back on the path to productivity, new email systems are allowing employees to stop emails from showing up until the user chooses to. For example, I could decide to prevent all of my emails from coming through until I was ready to read and respond to them later in the afternoon. Doing such would prevent the user from constant distraction throughout the morning. But such a distraction-free life would require a change in business culture as well for it to be successful. In an era when people expect almost immediate responses to emails, viewing and responding to emails once or twice a day does not cut it; in fact, it almost seems rude or negligent. At the current pace of business and technology, distractions in the workplace are here to stay.

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One Response

  1. Dang, I forgot what you wrote… now I have to read it over again…

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