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Staying Productive Amidst Distracting Co-Workers

Author: Jake Magleby
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Staying Productive Amidst Distracting Co-Workers

As fun as the workplace can be, it’s important to keep a good balance between socializing with co-workers and getting work done. For most people, this is doable and easy. For others, it is a challenge they need to constantly be aware of and try to overcome. Unfortunately, it is the latter group of people that can cause unnecessary distractions for everyone in the office. Luckily, there are a few strategies for you to use to avoid getting distracted by the chattier people around you.

Wear Headphones

Headphones or earbuds are usually a major sign that you aren’t available to talk. It shows that you are already focused on listening to one thing and doing one task so you don’t have time to listen to other things going on. It also helps to block out loud chatter that isn’t directed at you but is still distracting.

Ignore Distractions

Only the most diligent of workers can get through distractions just by ignoring them. It takes a lot of mental focus and drive to forget about everything that is going on around you and get to work.

However, ignoring is a great strategy when a co-worker approaches you to shoot the breeze. You don’t have to go into full elementary school mode, but you can give short answers and remain mostly focused on your task. Don’t engage too much in the conversation or it will look like you want to talk or that you have time to talk.

Display a Sign

This is a good-natured way to show your co-workers that you don’t always have time for their shenanigans. Bring in a humorous sign that you can flip to say either you are available to chat when you have more time or an easier project or you don’t have time because you have a deadline to meet or a project that requires more focus.

If someone walks up to your desk and tries to chat, jokingly point at the sign and say, “Oh, it looks like I can’t talk right now. Try again later!” They’ll think it’s funny but also get the point that you don’t have time to talk at the moment.

Give Visitors a Task

You can always use negative reinforcement to get our co-workers to stay away. Whenever someone comes to your desk to socialize, give them a task to do or ask for a favor. This will teach them that any time they come over they are going to be given more work to do. Soon they will figure out that you aren’t someone who they should spend time distracting.

Ask Them to Stop

If the distractions are a serious and recurring problem, it is perfectly fine to ask your co-workers to stop or at least cut back. When someone approaches you for a conversation, simply say that you don’t have time to talk at the moment but you would love to catch up later. If other people are talking and it’s holding you back, ask for them to use a different space to talk that isn’t a place where people are trying to work.

Distractions in the work place can be fun and welcome, but only on occasion. You are at work to get your job done and be paid by your employer for your work. It is important to be an honest employee and spend your time wisely. If your co-workers are preventing you from being the best worker you can be, find ways to lower the distractions or take them out of the equation. You will feel more fulfilled and happier once you can work to your full potential.

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  • Staying Productive Amidst Distracting Co-Workers
  • License: Creative Commons image source

Jake Magleby has written extensively about effective marketing, sales, and financing strategies to help small business owners succeed in the fast-paced and ever-changing business world. Jake spends his time learning about the best kind of office supplies and writing for American Toner & Ink.



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  • Don't engage too much in the conversation or it will look like you want to talk or that you have time to talk.
  • Soon they will figure out that you aren't someone who they should spend time distracting.
  • If the distractions are a serious and recurring problem, it is perfectly fine to ask your co-workers to stop or at least cut back.
  • When someone approaches you for a conversation, simply say that you don't have time to talk at the moment but you would love to catch up later.