Attention FAE Customers:
Please be aware that NASBA credits are awarded based on whether the events are webcast or in-person, as well as on the number of CPE credits.
Please check the event registration page to see if NASBA credits are being awarded for the programs you select.

Want to save this page for later?

NextGen Magazine


Managers Can Set an Example When it Comes to Workplace Distractions

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Jan 12, 2023

Workers are fighting back against software tools used by their employers to monitor their productivity in this new era of remote work. But managers should stop distracting their employees in this and other ways, author and former Stanford business lecurer Nir Eyal argues in the Harvard Business Review.

Monitoring productivity often measures metrics, such as emails sent, attendance at virtual meetings and computer keystrokes, but it does not measure productivity fostered by everyday tasks such as thinking, collaborating or calculating, he argues. Nor does it measure vital accomplishments and outcomes.

“When employees know their performance is being measured by the rules of productivity software, they become motivated to prioritize emails and messages over their core work,” Eyal wrote.

Eyal suggest that managers ask themselves whether they do things such as expect near-immediate responses to emails; ask for regular updates; send reminders and plan “check-ins” without considering an employee's needs; or plan brainstorming sessions with no agenda. If they do any of these, they are distracting their employees, he says.

To avoid such distractions, Eyal recommended four strategies.

First, he suggests opening a dialogue about distractions—in other words, asking employees about their most significant work distraction. Such a step will work only if they don’t fear a reprisal for sharing their thoughts. “Only when people feel safe discussing their workplace problems will you be able to find solutions to fix them,” he writes.

Second, he suggests that “schedule-syncing” with employees can help managers understand how the employees spend their time. Employees “are distracted by constant interruptions, pointless meetings, and a never-ending flow of emails,” he writes. He suggests tactics such as asking employees to share a time-boxed calendar of when they like to answer emails and messages, or when the like to be available for calls and meetings, and to have them designate specific distraction-free periods each day.  

“Using schedule-syncing tactics will help you gain better insight into how employees spend their time without micromanaging them.”

The third strategy he recommends is avoiding meetings without an agenda.

“Too often, people schedule a meeting to avoid having to put in the effort of solving a problem themselves,” he writes. “Requiring an agenda keeps everyone on track and cuts down on unnecessary meetings by adding a bit of effort on the part of the organizer before calling one.”

Finally, he recommends setting an example.

“You can’t demand that your staff work without distraction if you’re constantly looking at your phone in the middle of meetings or sending emails at midnight,” he writes. “The most critical step to building an indistractable workplace is being an indistractable boss.”