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Are tweets and messages a major distraction?

Another email pings into your inbox. It's probably not urgent, but it's from a colleague so you check it. After you've read it, replied and gathered your thoughts, you go back to your work. Some 23 minutes have slipped by.

That's how long the average worker is distracted from their work by every message or tweet that comes their way, according to research from Sapience Analytics, quoted by HR Grapevine.

And messages are coming in with alarming regularity, at a rate of one every 10.5 minutes. Employees receive on average 112 emails every day, and take 28 per cent of their day to read and reply to them, the research said.

Internal emails wasting time

You might think that it's personal messages that are most distracting. But the survey claimed that internal emails were the worst offenders, causing workers to fritter away 40 per cent of their day dealing with messages that added no business value at all.

The research analysed more than 200 million hours of data, tracking the social media movements of US staff. It estimated that such distractions cost US businesses up to $300 billion a year. And there's no reason to imagine that poor use of social media in the UK isn't wasting time and money too.

A study last year found that reducing the number of times a day employees were allowed to check their emails reduced their daily stress levels. It might be guessed that doing so might also reduce time waste.

We may feel as if we are being conscientious, highly efficient workers by keeping our inboxes under constant scrutiny. But it seems this kind of behaviour doesn't make you more productive - just more stressed.

Acas publications and services

Acas has advice on Dealing with stress in the workplace, which details the causes of stress and how you can combat them. There's also advice on Social media and managing performance, and how employers can help their workforce deal with the distractions of modern technology.

Acas experts can visit your organisation and help you identify what might be causing stress in your workplace, as well as how to manage it. See Stress: how Acas can help for details.

Practical training is also available on how to handle Stress, improving Skills for supervisors, and Work/life balance.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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