It’s a commonly shared fact that today's mobile phones are more powerful than the computers used to guide Apollo 11, the mission that first sent people to the moon. Although true, that fact also only tells part of the story: cell phones were already more powerful over a decade ago. Compare a 2009-era flip phone to the latest smartphone in your pocket right now and it becomes clear that today's technology is now astronomically more advanced.
This explosion of technology is one of the modern wonders of the world. Pew Research recently found that 77 percent of Americans own smartphones -- up from 35 percent in 2011 -- and 95 percent of all adults own a cell phone. Virtually every single worker is bringing NASA-busting equipment into the workplace every day.
However, all of that computing power also presents new, evolving challenges for offices. One of the things technology does best is distract us. But companies can fight tech with tech.
Why offices need tech limits
In a recent study of workplace distractions by Udemy for Business, 62 percent of all workers spend an hour each workday checking their smartphones, with 36 percent of millennials and Gen Z employees reporting two hours or more of smartphone time. For millennials and Gen Z in particular, that means up to three months of work every year is sacrificed to tech distractions, adding up to a problem of overwhelming scale. Billions of hours and trillions of dollars are lost each year thanks to simple technology-based distractions. The magnitude of that impact would be an emergency in anyone's book.
Promoting employee focus needs to be a key incentive for every company. The reality is that everyone on the org chart struggles with technology distractions in the workplace, and all employees understand the value of being free from distractions. The Udemy for Business study also found that interruptions and distractions cause 34 percent of people to like their job less, and increases stress, frustration and lack of motivation for all respondents at work.
How to manage employee focus
It can be a knee-jerk reaction to simply forbid all mobile devices in the office, but stemming the tide of losses does not have to mean reducing employee access to tech. A best practice is engaging vendors with cutting-edge tech to help keep employees focused at work. Mobile device management (MDM) lets companies oversee smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices to block distracting content found through websites and apps.
Managing devices can be time-based, controlling access to social media or entertainment applications like Netflix and Hulu during the workday, but allowing employees to use their devices for entertainment after working hours. Benefits of MDM also includes cost savings on IT by streamlining workflows and pushing software to devices.
Leading tools also allow IT and management to be very granular with device control across different operating systems. As more and more enterprises move to Apple products for their systems, many simply don't know how to manage devices for Apple’s operating systems. Utilizing a technology partner that specializes in a specific device platform will drastically improve implementation and maintenance.
Technology helps address challenges
Additional challenges will certainly arise when minimizing tech distractions, including the need for different groups within the organization to have different levels of access. A tech partner can help companies create profiles for each team at a granular level, even down to managing a single device or person.
Along with streamlining workflows, MDM also promotes greater security, giving IT teams gateway-level blocking, so people can't bypass the system with proxies or VPNs. Not only will this help employees focus, thereby improving engagement, but it will also assist in preventing any unauthorized access into a company's system.
Increasing productivity at a workplace starts at the top. The first step for leadership is investing in technology that will help eliminate tech distractions. Done properly, this step will boost productivity, improve employee happiness and promote focus without losing valuable collaboration and ultimately benefit the bottom line.
Want to learn more about how MDM can help employees stay focused? Check out our article on managed devices in the workplace.