Workplace tech has allowed us to move at speeds we never imagined, but we now know screen fatigue is real, workplace burnout is reaching new heights, and switching between email, instant messages and texts is giving us work whiplash.

While working from home cuts down on distractions for many, how can we lessen distractions within the traditional office space?

A new study called the 2019 Workplace Productivity Report, from Paper and Packaging -- How Life Unfolds surveyed 1,057 U.S. office workers to examine the modern workplace, how tech impacts focus and what workers are doing about it. The report found that over half of office professionals are suffering from digital overload. 

I spoke with How Life Unfolds' Digital Detox Expert, Holland Haiis, to learn more about the challenges facing office workers across the country, along with four compelling strategies for facing screen fatigue head-on.

1. Start your day off on the right foot.

For many of us, the first thing we do in the morning is open up our inbox and cull through emails that came in overnight. Haiis says this is a surefire way to make our whole day less productive.

"I always recommend starting the day by using a notebook or a business journal to prioritize the top three goals or projects you need to start, prep or finish that day," shared Haiis. "Knowing what you need to get done before you even open your computer sets you up for proactivity rather than reactivity."

2. Take breaks for higher output.

According to the report, 87% of office professionals spend the majority of their workday staring at screens: an average of seven hours a day. We all know we should, but how many of us really step away from our screen in practice? Taking regular breaks from screens and devices is essential.

"Employees who take breaks every 90 minutes report a higher level of focus and productivity," says Haiis. "Close down your laptop and doodle on a notepad, or take a quick walk around the office. This allows your brain to recharge for what you need to do next."

3. Stop bringing your phone to meetings.

The report found that devices are making meetings less efficient and less collaborative: 62% think digital tools are making their teams unfocused and inefficient in meetings, and 63% prefer using paper to collaborate with colleagues and spark creativity.

Haiis warns against "the smartphone effect" in meetings. He says, "The mere presence of a phone on a table is distracting. Meetings are a valuable source of face time, but we don't get the benefit when we're constantly checking our phones. Next time, leave your phone at the door and try to get your co-workers on board too."

Haiis also suggested bringing a notebook -- using paper to take notes instead of a laptop keeps your focus on the subject matter at hand rather than the latest message notification. 

4. Use the right tool for the task.

"Digital tools have, of course, made the workplace more efficient in many ways. But there is a tendency to get blindsided by our digital environment, even though there are certain tasks for which analog tools are just more effective," says Haiis. 

For many, physical tools are still preferable in order to effectively digest information or manage time. The report found that 96% prefer to work with hard copies over digital versions of the same information, and 53% prefer using paper calendars and to-do lists.

In fact, 75% think it's important to have the option to use paper whenever they want. To create a productive workplace, it's clearly crucial to ensure employees have access to the tools that suit their work style -- across the spectrum from digital to analog.

Published on: Oct 24, 2019
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