Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah

Workplace distraction, workplace interference or attention diversion has been defined as the inability of the worker to remain focused on what is work priority. In fact, it is seen as the “blocking or diminishing” of the reception of important information that should aid work performances.

Having looked at the effects of workplace distractions on the organization and the individual worker, we should now focus on the causes of workplace distraction.


A survey conducted by CareerBuilder on 2000 US hiring and HR Managers in 2016 identified the following causes of workplace distractions:

  1. Smart phones – 55%
  2. Internet – 41%
  3. Gossip – 35%
  4. Social media- 37%
  5. Co-workers dropping by – 27%

Udemy Findings on the Causes of workplace Distraction 2018

In a similar survey by Udemy in 2018, the following were identified as causes of workplace distractions:

  1. Talkative Co-workers – 80%
  2. Office Noise – 70%
  3. Smart Phone – 69%
  4. Meetings – 60%
  5. Social Media – 59%


The major causes of workplace distraction can be INTERNAL or EXTERNAL in nature. The internal reasons will include interference from and within the organization itself, obstruction from employee’s workspaces and such issues that can encumber effective work performances in and around the organization.

On the other hand, the external reasons bother on issues that are external to the employee immediate environment such as an unscheduled visit by the employee’s acquaintances, the inability of the worker to manage private-personal issues that could cause uneasiness, attention diversion, and stress including family interference with work (FIW).

It will interest you to know that in its 2018 Workplace Distraction Report, Udemy in Depth reveals that a third of millennial and GenZ who responded to its questionnaire say they spend two hours or more checking and interacting with their smartphones during the work hours.This implies that 10 hours of valuable working hours are lost per week to unrelated workplace activity.

It was further discovered that 59% of workplace distraction was caused by social media and when broken down Facebook was seen as the major culprit as shown below.

  1. Facebook                 65%
  2. Instagram                  9%
  3. Snap chat                   7%
  4. Twitter                        7%

In the Journal of Vocational Behaviour, Volume 81, Issue 2, October 2012, Pages 227 – 235, it was revealed that family interference with employee work is positively related to an increased in workplace cognitive failure, a condition defined as errors made at work that “ indicate lapses in memory” and failure to recall work procedures.

Having pointed out the key factors that cause’s workplace distraction, it is therefore necessary to look at the solutions and some manageable measures that can be taken to reduce the negative effects of workplace distraction on the workers and the organization as a whole.

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