The average office worker has this many programs open at once

Distraction goes beyond work tools into personal devices and distraction. Social media, online shopping, and phones also contribute.

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As I type, I have Google Chrome open (three tabs), plus Feedly, WordPress, Trello, and Slack. According to a new survey of 2,000 office workers from GoTo about workplace distractions, I’m just about normal – 54% of employees have at least five different computer programs open at the same time, pinging back and forth between them throughout the workday. In many cases, the “collaborative tools” that were invented to help us just end up distracting us further. Fifty-nine percent of employees say that they waste time switching between different collaboration apps throughout the day.

And all this toggling leads to mistakes: 57% of employees say they’ve sent an email to the wrong person, and 33% say they’ve sent an email or hit “send” on a chat before they’re ready.

Distraction goes beyond work tools into personal devices and distraction. Social media, online shopping, and cell phones in the office are fertile grounds for personal interference.


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Almost everybody – 94% of respondents – said they looked at their personal cell phones during work hours.

  • 70% surfed social media
  • 45% took a browse around clothing or online shopping sites.
  • A bold 21% reported using dating sites during work hours.

Then came the distractions from others, possibly made worse by near-ubiquitous open-office plans: loud conversations (51%), office phones ringing (49%), and the sounds of constructions (31%) were major sources of pain.

While there’s nothing to be done about employees distracting themselves or the near-total encroachment of Slack, for other noise, may we suggest ordering up a couple of office phone booths?

Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.