What improves your focus at work? For me personally, I need background noise. I’m one of those people who loves an open workspace because the chatter helps me unlock new ideas. I also know that many of my colleagues prefer complete silence to concentrate.
Imagine if as a leader, I required my team members to work in the environment that best suited me. It would not be a surprise if the constant activity left many individuals feeling stressed and negatively impacted their productivity. Similarly, putting employees like me in a quiet zone is unlikely to yield positive results.
In the past, organizations often prescribed a one-size-fits-all model when designing their workspace. Because humans think and behave in different ways, a collective approach likely led to some groups feeling quite energized with others feeling scattered. It’s important that leaders and managers be attentive to the different settings that either add or remove distractions for their staff to encourage them to achieve their potential.
Creating the Foundation for Concentration
I recently read a brilliant article, sharing tips to create an “indistractable” workplace. The three that most resonated with me were to:
- Empower people with channels to provide feedback about the things that are causing them to lose focus from their jobs so they can be addressed.
- Foster psychological safety so staff can voice their opinions without fear of negative consequences, creating an environment where they feel heard and supported.
- Model managing distraction, such as closing your office door, turning off notifications or taking a ‘power day’ to encourage others to follow suit.
With these foundational pieces in place, leaders can remove many of the stressors that divert employees’ attention and lead to disengagement. They can also build on these elements by using the Emergenetics® Attributes to uncover what may amplify or inhibit focus for staff and realigning their actions to honor the many factors that boost people’s productivity.
Distraction Through the Emergenetics Attributes
The Analytical Attribute may get sidetracked when the workspace is cluttered with items that aren’t relevant to the task at hand or when people are moving around and talking loudly. To support this preference, create a clutter-free environment and provide quiet spaces.
Take note: Those with a preference for Analytical thinking may appear off track when they go down the research route. Giving them time to collect the data they need will help them move forward and pay dividends when that information is needed in the future.
Distraction can occur for the Structural Attribute when their space is disorganized, or they can’t find what they need. Invite individuals with this preference to organize their physical or virtual materials in a way that makes sense to them to reduce stress and increase efficiency.
Be mindful: You may notice those with a Structural preference stepping away from a larger project to complete smaller tasks. Allowing them to check items off their list will help them concentrate on their next assignment.
People with a preference for Social thinking may find it challenging to focus if they feel like they are working on an island and are unable to seek others’ opinions. Provide opportunities for the Social Attribute to collaborate in teams and encourage virtual or in-person social gatherings during and outside of work hours.
Don’t forget: While it may appear that individuals with a Social preference are off topic, taking a few minutes to connect on a personal level is energizing and will allow them to bring greater attention to their work.
The Conceptual Attribute may find a static and quiet environment to be distracting. Creating space for those with a preference for Conceptual thought to take a walk, listen to a podcast or work on something new will inspire innovation and motivation.
Keep in mind: Individuals with a Conceptual preference may appear to have a lot going on around them. Encouraging them to work from a coffee shop or play music can be invigorating and improve productivity.
When an individual has preferences in three or four Thinking Attributes, they may get off track by the multiple burning questions that need to be answered before they can move forward. Invite those with a committee brain to take the time they need to satisfy all of the Attributes in preference before landing on a decision.
Be mindful: When a person is trimodal or quadrimodal, it may be challenging to guess which Attribute they will lead with at any given moment. Checking in periodically will allow you to understand what actions above will best support them.
Those in the first-third of Expressiveness may find it challenging to be attentive when there are side conversations or background music, while those in the third-third may find silence to be disruptive. If you’re working in an office setting, honor both ends of the spectrum by providing open spaces that welcome activity as well as quiet areas where doors can be closed. If your office has an open concept floorplan, encourage employees to wear headphones so they can create their ideal environment.
Those in the first-third of Assertiveness can feel stressed when they have a fast-approaching deadline, while those in the third-third may gain energy from waiting until the last minute to complete an assignment. Support those across the Assertiveness continuum by giving advanced notice when possible and empowering individuals to work at a pace that’s comfortable for them.
Those in the first-third of Flexibility can get off track if they are working on too many projects at once, whereas the third-third may be energized by multitasking. Respect all Flexibility preferences by encouraging individuals to choose how they prioritize their work.
Leaders often default to their own preferences because it helps boost their productivity, and they want to replicate those benefits for their people. While these intentions are good, the best way to support staff is to allow them to utilize and lean into their strengths.
By welcoming feedback, modeling healthy boundaries and creating a safe environment where individuality is respected, you will empower your employees to battle those distractions and do their best work.
For more tips to amplify employees’ well-being and effectiveness, download our Manager Toolkit.
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