How Can IT Professionals Boost Productivity and Minimize Distractions at Work?

IT professional sitting at work

One of the biggest mistakes IT professionals can make is to underestimate the importance of their work environment and the effect it can have on their productivity and efficiency. And by work environment, we mean all the physical, social, and emotional elements that make up the setting in which you work and impact the way you work.

While a healthy and productive work environment is important for professionals across all industries, it is particularly important for people working in the IT industry—think quality assurance engineers, software developers, IT security specialists, and so on. This is because professionals that work with software and applications need to be fully focused on their work and pay attention to even the smallest details, especially when working on software that is used in industries like healthcare, banking, and manufacturing—and that many users rely on. If IT professionals are distracted and cannot focus on their work completely, many things can go wrong that can result in loss of time, money, and reputation.

This brings us back to the work environment. How exactly does your work environment affect your productivity and efficiency? Essentially, your work environment sets the work mood and determines how much you get done and how well you do something. And according to a survey carried out by global research firm IPSOS, only 11% of respondents were highly satisfied with their work environment. So if you thought that a couple of misplaced pens, tangled cables, and a buzzing phone does not impact your ability to concentrate and work—you are in for a bit of a surprise.

We’ll look at some of the most common distractions in the workplace, discuss the importance of fostering a positive work environment, and share some ways you can boost your productivity and efficiency at work.

What are some distractions at work?

IT professional feeling a bit overwhelmed

It is easy to overlook just how much attention you give to your surroundings. You probably do not even notice where your attention goes throughout the day. It's like a curious cat that jumps from one place to another in a matter of seconds without you realizing or controlling it. Therefore, the more objects there are for your attention to jump to, the harder it is for you to lock your focus on one thing.

Some of the most common distractions in the workplace include:

  • Co-workers chatting or moving around
  • Phone usage and notifications
  • Multitasking and jumping between tasks
  • A ​​cluttered workspace

And the interesting thing about these distractions is that they do not necessarily have to be in your direct view or obnoxiously loud to steal your attention. Nor does it have to be a continuous, ongoing disturbance. It can be pretty much anything in the background—sometimes all it takes is to remember something that happened a while ago to suddenly get thrown off course.

So what can you do to boost your productivity and minimize distractions in your work environment? In an ideal world you would want to eliminate every single distraction there is and to purely focus on what’s ahead of you. But in reality that is simply impossible. So the next best thing to do is minimize your distractions and make sure your work environment accommodates your needs as an IT professional.

Declutter your desk

IT professional working at his desk

A great way to start is to clean up your own desk. No need to bring in your whole cleaning cabinet, just remove the unnecessary things, like papers and pens. If you are working with multiple devices, your desk is probably filled with cables. Although these objects don’t get your full attention, they still reduce your productivity. In fact, statistics reveal that people with a clean desk can work for an extra 7.5 minutes without getting distracted, while their productivity and stamina can increase by 84%. Declutter your desk by removing the things that you don’t use frequently. Put papers in a drawer or folder so they don’t take up too much space, place pens in pen holders, and use cable ties to organize cables.

Clean up your computer

Now that you have cleaned up your desk and removed the clutter, it’s time to do the same for your computer. As you spend the majority of your day looking at your computer screen, your computer should be nicely organized and easy to navigate. However if your desktop is full of unnecessary files or your browser has too many tabs open, then this might make it difficult for you to find what you’re looking for and cause you to lose focus. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools that you can use to make cleaning up your computer easier and less stressful. For example, with Tab Session Manager it's possible to save and restore windows and tabs for later use, manage sessions with names and tags, and import and export sessions. Additionally, you can use the bookmarks feature in your browser to save important or frequently visited websites to reduce the time it takes you to find the correct URL.

Block out unsolicited noise

To ensure you are as productive and as efficient as possible, look out for noise distractions. Even though these are one of the most difficult to eliminate, you can influence how much of it gets to you and seek out ways to block the sound. For instance, if there’s loud construction work in the building, or even worse, right outside your window you can shut the door or close the window to at least make it less distracting. Another common situation you have probably found yourself in more than once is having your colleagues distract you by talking near you. This type of “noise” can be very distracting and bring down your concentration. So how can you block out unsolicited noise?

At TestDevLab, for example, we have soundproof booths for such scenarios so that you can isolate yourself for a short time—plus they are great for having meetings as well. Also, when distracted by any kind of noise, we suggest that you wear headphones so that you can block out any sound and focus on your work.

However, not all noise is bad for your productivity levels. In fact, studies show that music improves employees’ productivity and happiness in the office. Specifically, 90% of employees perform better when listening to music, while 88% of them deliver more accurate work when listening to music.

IT professional working in a soundproof booth

Put your phone away

Do not have your phone next to you. As obvious and as easy as this may sound, the majority of people will probably struggle with the idea of not having their phone within arm’s reach. Sure, there are good reasons to have your phone by your side in case of an emergency, but in reality the emergency rarely comes, and instead you end up reacting to every single—often insignificant—message that pops up in the notification bar. However, if the goal is to improve your performance and enhance your productivity, then it’s time to put that phone away. The best practice is to put your phone on “Do not disturb” or just remove it from your view when you want to concentrate on your task. If you're an iPhone user, you are going to love the new iOS 16 which comes with Focus Mode.

Take a break

Another important part to ensuring a good work environment and boosting your productivity is taking a good-quality break. Do not confuse taking some time off with being lazy. Your body and mind can only take so much, so working restlessly will eventually lead to burnout. According to Deloitte’s marketplace survey on burnout, 77% of employees have experienced burnout at work. Taking a break is important to recharge your batteries and regain focus. At TestDevLab, we understand the importance of taking good-quality breaks, which is why we have cozy chill rooms across all our offices that our employees can use to change their work scenery or take a short break from their workload. But for a break to be effective, it should be purposeful.

TestDevLab employees working from one of the chill-out zones in the office

Here are some ideas for an effective break:

  • Take a walk
  • Do some stretches
  • Perform breathing exercises or meditation
  • Take a nap
  • Brew yourself a cup of tea or coffee
  • Relax your eyes

Finding the right work environment that works for you

Everyone has their own way of working and work environment that suits them best. So it is only logical that they also have different ways of dealing with obstacles that may interfere with their productivity at work. Follow these tips to better understand what is distracting you in your work environment and what you can do to be more productive. A good exercise would be to manually note down and keep track of the time you spend productively and how much goes towards other, less productive activities. Once you have a clearer picture of your activities, you can plan and adjust your work habits accordingly. Remember, having a healthy and productive work environment isn’t limited to just an office—everything mentioned above applies when working remotely as well.

Want to join a work environment where you can thrive and achieve all of your career goals? We’re hiring. Check out our open positions.

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