The Most Common Office Distractions (and How to Beat Them)

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • “Let’s all meet in the conference room in 5 minutes. We need to go over something.”
  • “Where’s that file?”
  • “It takes me an hour to get through my email in the morning before I even get started.”
  • “Hey, have you seen that YouTube video about the guy in the tree costume?”
  • “What. Is. That. Banging. Noise.”

The enemies of productivity are always at work, and if your work environment is less productive than you’d like it to be, it might be time to take control of common office distractions.

The average office worker faces a constant barrage of distractions from loud co-workers and Facebook notifications to unexpected meetings and too many emails. In this post, we’ll look at some of the most common office distractions and what you can do to beat them.

Office Noise

That open office configuration that was so popular just a short time ago has a few downsides, and one of them is noise. Even when workers are quiet and focused, they still generate noise. There’s the tapping on the keyboards, the bouncing erasers on desktops as problems are being mulled over, and the conversations between employees collaborating on projects. There are printers and humming computers, copy machines and heels clicking on the floor. How can all of this noise be tamed?

On an individual level, think about wearing headphones. You can either listen to the blessed silence inside of your dormant headphones, or you could listen to a productivity playlist of calm instrumental music. Websites like A Soft Murmur allow you to curate your own noise-dampening ambience, with thunder sounds, soft wind, a crackling fire and even coffee shop sounds.

On an office-wide level, there are many things you can do to reduce noise. Put up sound-dampening acoustic partitions between employees. This not only reduces noise, but it also gives your employees more privacy, which facilitates better concentration. You can also install acoustic panels on the walls or rugs on hard flooring to reduce the sounds of footsteps.


Unnecessary meetings break the work day up into small chunks, eliminating the possibility of long stretches of uninterrupted concentration time. While some meetings are productive, many are disorganised and distracting. It’s tough to check off your other tasks when you’re hopping from meeting to meeting.

Reduce the number of meetings your employees have to attend by having a “no meetings” day each week. Employees can then plan on using these days for their toughest tasks. If you decide to do this, set the example by not having any meetings on the executive level either, and be vigilant about enforcing the policy.


Some people don’t seem to mind clutter, but for others, it’s a deadly distraction. It can be difficult to get your mind quiet and focused if the work environment feels out of control. In fact, research shows that there’s a direct correlation between productivity and clutter. One study showed that the average office worker wastes over 4 hours each week searching for papers, and the average executive wastes an entire hour each day looking for missing information.

What can you do to tame this problem in your workplace? Start by setting aside time each week to manage and organise information. Organise your own desk at the end of each day, and encourage your employees to do the same. Cut down on physical documents by using programs like Evernote and the Google Drive.

Use office partitions to conceal unsightly areas of the office (like the copy area) to keep distractions at bay.


Email can be a huge distraction in the workplace, especially if there’s an unspoken expectation that all emails be answered right away. If your employees are spending hours writing and answering emails, they’re not being as productive as they could be. But what can you do?

Direct your employees to not send personal emails to their work email accounts. Jokes, chain emails and other disruptions waste time and keep your employees distracted. As for work-related emails, encourage your employees to keep them to a minimum. If they group their non-urgent emails into a single mailing, they’ll vastly reduce the sheer numbers of emails in their co-workers’ inboxes. Alternatively, consider using team messaging apps like Slack.

Clearly, there are many things you can do to minimise office distractions. For more information about how portable partitions can help you to increase productivity and reduce distractions in your office, get in touch with us. We’d love to help.