The Weekly Round-Up: Digital distractions, fed up with Facebook and WFH

Email makes staff rude, social networks bore us silly and silicon.com work from home…
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor on

Email makes staff rude, social networks bore us silly and silicon.com work from home…

Interruption is bad for the soul.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was famously interrupted by a "person from Porlock" when writing his poem Kubla Khan. By the time he managed to get rid of his visitor, he'd completely forgotten the rest of the poem, managing a mere 84 lines.

Still, nowadays he would have been lucky to get as far as "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan..." without being interrupted by an email, tweet or text.

Despite the modest benefit of saving the world from yet more poetry, interruptions are very, very annoying.

If you find yourself surrounded by rude and unproductive colleagues - and let's be honest, who doesn't - then there is a good chance that interruptions caused by technology are to blame.

And nobody likes being interrupted, especially at work.

Interruptions at work are making employees ruder and less productive, and wouldn’t you just know it - 60 per cent of work distractions involve technology.

Email, social networking, text messaging and instant messaging were all found guilty of disrupting the concentration of employees in a recent survey.

Nearly half of the workers surveyed said they can only work for 15 minutes or less without being interrupted and 53 per cent said they waste at least one hour a day due to distractions.

According to research commissioned by email software provider harmon.ie, tech-related interruptions are also making the workforce ruder.

At least that's our excuse.

Two out of three workers said they would disrupt a group meeting to communicate with someone else digitally.

So what technology leads the war against common courtesy in the workplace? The top culprit was email, with just shy of half those surveyed interrupting a meeting to send an email.

Over a third said they would interrupt a meeting to answer a mobile phone and 12 per cent would update their status on a social network, though presumably playing FarmVille or Mafia Wars is strictly off limits.

A third of employees said interruptions make it harder for them to produce work and a quarter said interruptions mean there is no time for "creative or deep thinking". That would have been the marketing department.

In addition to stress, digital interruption – not procrastination - is to blame for 10 per cent of employees missing deadlines while five per cent blamed loss of clients or business to interruptions - and not incompetence.

The average annual cost of wasted productivity caused by digital interruptions is £3,277.50 per employee.

All due to technology. Unless we’re blaming something else to cover the fact that the human race is evolving into ruder, less patient and effective people who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions?

You’re right, best to blame Twitter...

Bored of Bebo? Fed up with Facebook?

So not only are we a nation cruelly deprived of creativity by the constant interruptions erupting from our gadgets, we are also jaded too. Such is the life of the 21st-century office worker.

Facebook has a user base of 600 million people, regularly sharing their thoughts and photos, bothering celebrities, joining groups and posting endless and interminably dull updates on the latest on their digital farms.

Twitter has over 200 million users, generating 65 million tweets a day about food: "I'm eating a flapjack", and other inanities.

But according to a survey, our love affair with social-networking sites and apps may be coming to an end.

Research has revealed that 34 per cent of Britons are now ‘bored’ of social networks such as Bebo and Facebook.

Eight out of 10 respondents to the survey said they are currently registered on a social-networking site.

Most respondents, 94 per cent, are on Facebook, 42 per cent are prone to Twittering and 17 per cent said they use MySpace.

Photo sharing is the main reason most people use the site, according to the survey, with only 41 per cent using it to keep in touch with friends. Which raises the question: with whom are they are actually sharing these photos?

Of the 34 per cent of total respondents who said they are ‘bored’ of social-networking sites, many said they feel pressured to update their social-network profile and lose interest as a result.

Which may suggest it's time to get new friends rather than a new social network.

Lounge vs office

Still, if you can't bear to be in the office because of all the interruptions and you don't like your friends anymore, what else is there to do except retreat to your home, where you can escape all these things?

Except, of course, when you work from home and have to bring it all back with you.

Today is National Work From Home Day, so getting into the swing of things Silicon Towers is empty as everyone has swapped the gleaming office for the comforts of home. Goodbye sharp suits, hello pyjama pants. Let's hope nobody is expecting a videoconference today.

Along the way we've been trying out some new technologies and rating how easy or hard it is to stay productive out of the office. If you've got any top tips as to how to look incredibly keen and focused while actually eating crumpets and watching daytime TV, we'd love to hear them.

Find out how we got on here.

An Englishman's home is his castle, but the truth is you can't really raise the drawbridge when you have broadband.

Elsewhere this week on silicon.com: check out our interview with MIT tech guru Michael Cusumano, find out why Peter Cochrane thinks you are a slug crawling across concrete and discover why it's so hard to win at gamification.

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