Some workplace distractions and interruptions are unavoidable but others, such as noise, personal electronic devices, multitasking, and even hunger – if not properly controlled or regulated – could lead to injuries, lost productivity, and a decrease in worker morale. This week we'll talk about workplace distractions and limiting their impact on our daily tasks in order to stay safe.
Monday – Interruptions
Work interruptions are distractions that can result in work errors or accidents. Before addressing or responding to another person, workers should shut down or disengage any work tool, equipment, or processes. Job training should include instructions not to interrupt others during a critical job phase or process. Instruction manuals and procedural guidebooks should be kept on site to answer frequently asked questions and thereby eliminate the need to interrupt or distract other workers.
Tuesday - Noise
External noise from tools, mobile equipment, and processes can be distracting in industrial and construction work environments. In work situations where loud or constant noise is unavoidable, hearing protection devices can eliminate or decrease unwanted and distracting noise. In other work environments, even not-so-loud sounds can be a distracting annoyance. Constantly ringing phones, conversations, and loud faxes, copiers, and printers can distract workers from their job tasks or -- depending on the level or duration of the noise -- can contribute to workplace stress.
Warehouses and production areas are often noisy. In many cases, little can be done to reduce machinery noise. Depending on the exact nature of an employee’s job, earplugs can help reduce excess noise distractions and harmful noise levels. Earplugs need to be rated to be able to reduce the volume without compromising a worker’s ability to hear an approaching vehicle or alarm. Last and certainly not least, alertness is of the utmost importance while walking through a warehouse facility and therefore workers should never have ear plugs on during that time.
Wednesday - Devices
Electronic devices such as cell phones, iPods, and PDAs can be the source of serious distractions in some work environments. Check with your supervisor to find out if these electronics are allowed where you work. If these devices are approved in your workplace, as a courtesy to your co-workers, make sure you keep your cell phone on a low volume or silent when you work. To maximize work safety and performance, turn email notifications off and disable instant messaging. Don’t answer the phone or emails when you’re in the middle of a task – let it ring to voicemail then check messages later -- preferably on your break time.
In some work environments wearing a headset with low volume, music can be relaxing to workers and help them to safely focus on their work. However, wearing headphones on a construction or industrial site can be dangerous if it prevents workers from hearing warning signals, mobile equipment backup alarms, and safety instructions. Walking around while talking on the phone or wearing a headset distracts your attention from safety and could result in a slip or fall or cause you to run into or be struck by something or someone.
Thursday - Hunger
When it comes to performance, nutrition matters the most. Nutrition is extremely critical for cognition and focus. Most of us don’t realize that brain cells require more energy than the rest of the cells in our bodies. In other words, your brain needs sustainable energy in order to run at peak performance. Your typical sugary vending machine food – like candy bars and danishes – create energy spikes and crashes that inhibit our ability for prolonged concentration, and actually make the problem worse.
Avoid foods with processed sugars and unhealthy fats, both of which lead to energy crashes and sluggishness. Stick to foods rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats, and complex carbs to help maintain maximum focus. Remember to eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast in the morning. A good breakfast will keep you focused and energized to get through the morning.
Friday - Multitasking
We all think we can multitask. Whether it is checking an email while talking to a client, ordering lunch while in a meeting, or listening to a podcast while conducting research, we’ve all tried to make it work and most probably have failed in doing so. The truth is, our brains aren’t made for multitasking. Avoid wasting time by sticking to one topic at a time. Once you have completed one task, you can move on to the next one. Do not allow yourself to multitask because you will ultimately get less done in the same amount of time. We all think we can do it; however, when we attempt to multitask, we’re purposefully distracting ourselves from our most important tasks.
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