The Most Common Workday Distractions (and How You Can Actually Stay Focused)

Black stay at home father working on laptop while his kids are demanding his attention. stock photo
Drazen Zigic / iStock.com

How much of your workday do you spend not working? If you’re like most Americans, you probably spend one to two hours of your day (not including lunch) giving in to other distractions. And while taking short breaks throughout the day is healthy, you should make an effort to stay focused during the time periods you are “on.”

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So, what distractions are the biggest culprits of pulling Americans away from their work? To find out, Resume-Now surveyed over 950 U.S. employees — and found that these were the top distractions.

Children Are the No. 1 Distraction

Among the workers surveyed, 14% said that doing something for or with their kids was a distraction — the top response among those polled. This is a more common distraction among working parents who work remotely full time or part time — among remote and hybrid workers, 63% have their kids home with them sometimes. And 48% of hybrid and remote working parents agreed that their children were a major distraction when trying to work.

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Other common distractions include scrolling aimlessly on a device (12%), chatting on a messaging app (8%), playing video games (8%), looking for another job (8%), checking a dating app (7%), watching videos (7%) and checking social media (7%).

Among those that cite checking social media as a top distraction, Facebook is the most common culprit. Thirty-six percent check Facebook during the workday, while 27% check Instagram, 12% check YouTube, 7% check Twitter, 5% check TikTok and 4% check LinkedIn.

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Remote Workers Are More Easily Distracted Than Those in an Office

Nearly half (42%) of remote workers said that they get easily distracted when they are supposed to be working. This is more than those that work in an office full time or part time — but not by much. Thirty-five percent of those who work in an office say that get easily distracted, though it may be by different things — 5% of those surveyed said their top distraction is chatting in-person with co-workers. Hybrid workers seem to be the most focused — 34% said that they get easily distracted when they are supposed to be working.

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Why Are Workers Giving Into Distractions?

The survey also asked workers about their reasons for not doing work, and the No. 1 response (23%) was, “I know I can do my work at the last minute.” Other common reasons were, “I have to be in the mood” (19%) and “outside distractions are impossible to ignore” (17%).

Slacking Off During Work Can Have Repercussions

Taking quick breaks during the workday can “help you refresh your focus and get more done,” according to Fast Company. But there’s a difference between taking a conscious break and simply giving in to distractions — and the latter may land you in hot water.

According to the survey, 42% of workers have gotten in trouble for doing non-work-related things during work hours, and some have even been fired for their tendency to be distracted. Roughly one-third of men (34%) and women (29%) said they were fired due to being distracted from work.

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How To Stay Focused During the Workday

Given that distractions can cost you your job, it’s best to do all you can to mitigate these workday interruptions so you can keep your focus. One way to do this is to set designated break times rather than taking a break whenever something pops up.

“Make a note of your break times and set an alarm,” said Morgan Taylor, co-founder and owner of Jolly SEO. “Taking breaks keeps you fresh, so skipping them is a false economy.”

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If you have kids at home, set clear boundaries (if possible) so they know when you are working and when you are free to spend time with them. Kenny Trinh, CEO of Netbooknews, recommends putting a sign on your office door so they know that during specific times you are not to be disturbed.

“Use a handmade sign that says ‘F/T’ which stands for ‘Focus Time,'” he said. “I’ve seen a few people do this, which naturally instills a sense of seriousness that you will not be interrupted while that sign is hanging on the door unless it’s a serious emergency.”

If social media is a top distraction for you, consider installing the StayFocusd browser extension.

“One of my favorite productivity hacks comes with the help of an app called StayFocusd,” said Lori Cheek, CEO of Cheekd. “Facebook and Twitter can be a major distraction. StayFocusd helps avoid these distractions by restricting the amount of time you can spend on them. The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites, with a 10-minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can’t be accessed for the remainder of the day.”

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Last updated: Oct. 22, 2021 

About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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