5 Workspace Distractions That Affect Productivity

One of the biggest and most long-standing challenges facing employers is how to optimize worker productivity in the workplace. Working spaces are important factors that lead to productivity because your environment motivates you. At the same time, it shapes your work habits and practices as you get used to them.

If you are someone who shifted to a different work setup, a change of workspace can also be pivotal to your ability, or lack thereof, to accomplish tasks. So, designing a space where you and your co-workers are more likely to be productive will help your team continue to hit major goals.

You can start by identifying the biggest and most common factors that affect productivity. Here are some of them:


Other than the usual sounds produced by coworkers (talking, coughing, laughing, etc.), there are other irritating noises you need to consider eliminating altogether. A different phone call routing system could minimize the number of ringing phones in the office throughout the day, for example. 

How many of your employees can hear the beeping of the microwave and coffee machines from their desks? What about the sounds from other office equipment, such as those made by copy machines or printers? If these sounds are disrupting employees, it might be worth moving them to a new location within the office.


Finding hunger on this distraction list may surprise you, but everyone can agree that hunger can make it virtually impossible to focus. It’s wise for employers to make sure employees take their regular breaks and lunches and stay as healthy as possible. 

Though it might seem more productive to work through lunch and keep plugging away, it actually hurts productivity. When an employee ignores their needs, they are less likely to focus on work.

The same goes for thirst and dehydration. Dehydration can lessen oxygen flow in the brain which could make it hard for you to do different tasks that require thinking. Make sure that you stay hydrated and eat well at work.


While in small doses a little clutter can encourage a creative mind, the fact is that a messy workplace affects your ability to focus and process information. Confusion and disorder are essentially a to-do list that reminds you of everything that needs to be done. As such, it pulls you away from being present. Over time, this makes you more anxious and stressed.

The fix? Keep your workspace clean and organized. Toss out the items you no longer need. Place paperwork in the appropriate files. Ideally, you should put as much paperwork on the cloud as possible to reduce the number of filing cabinets. Make sure that all of your office supplies have a home and are returned at the end of the day.


Chatty co-workers can also be a workplace distraction, especially if they engage in office gossip and politics. Curbing this behavior can be a challenge, especially since some people just like to talk. And, workplace socializing can actually be a good thing, fostering collegiality and teamwork. 

Management can try to mitigate problematic behavior by ensuring the chatters are fully engaged with challenging work with deadlines. In addition, co-workers can be encouraged to gently rebuff the chatters, either overtly or by donning headphones, signaling their need to focus on work.

Environmental and Visual Factors

Yes, visual distractions may not rank as high as loud noises or unpleasant smells on the list of common office annoyances. However, it’s still worth mentioning it can be difficult for employees to focus on open floorplan layouts, as they always have a full view of all the activity happening around them. In these cases, it can be really helpful to provide a few private work areas where employees can feel secluded.

Sunlight is another visual distraction you need to consider. Natural light is a huge office perk — until it comes through windows at the wrong angle and disrupts your employees’ ability to see their computer screens. The good thing? It’s easy to fix this problem with a simple investment in blinds.

Key Takeaway

The simple truth is that we all face distractions at work every single day, and typically every single hour, something or someone may cause you to be distracted. With so many meetings to attend, conversations or drop-ins by coworkers, calls, emails, social notifications, and numerous other interruptions, it can often feel like a real challenge to stay productive and get the important things done.

Distractions lower productivity and energy. They affect your ability to focus and stick with projects or tasks long enough to see them through. They will never go away if left unaddressed. In order to use our time effectively and to increase productivity and creativity, it’s essential we understand what’s distracting us and create the systems to stop it.

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