New Udemy Research: Why Soft Skills Are So Important In the Distraction Age

Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re at your desk in the middle of an open office trying to perform a task that requires deep focus (like writing a blog post). As you look at the blank page on your screen, notifications pop up from Slack and Trello; emails arrive in a steady cadence; banners light up your phone screen, tempting you to check your Instagram feed; a scrum of coworkers engages in a loud, animated discussion nearby; your manager pops by for a “quick” question; and, oops, now it’s time for you to go to a meeting.

Wait, what were you in the middle of trying to do before?

Welcome to the modern, tech-driven, interruption-prone workplace, where personal smartphone use is as distracting as work activity and maintaining concentration requires the discipline of a Zen master.

Udemy report measures impact of distractions
To assess just how problematic this is for office workers, Udemy conducted the Udemy In Depth: 2018 Workplace Distraction Report, part of our In Depth series that’s also studied stress and boredom on the job.

Not surprisingly, people reported having a lot of distractions but not much help from employers for dealing with the situation. Here are some of the top findings from our report:

  • 70% agree that training can help people get better at blocking out distractions and achieving focus
  • 36% of millennials/Gen Z say they spend 2 or more hours per work day looking at their phones for personal activities
  • 66% have never talked to a manager about their struggles with workplace distraction

Combatting distraction takes hard AND soft skills
While employers roll out new tools and technologies intended to boost productivity and facilitate collaboration, they seldom offer training beyond basic functionality. As a result, people know how to use individual tools but struggle to manage using several at once. Exacerbating the problem, many younger workers are accustomed to being on their smartphones all day long and haven’t been trained on how to prioritize work and business tasks that coexist on the same devices.

In our survey, these employees made it clear they’d appreciate guidance on managing distractions with training around things like time management, maintaining focus, and running efficient meetings.

Helping employees gain skills and providing career development often takes a back seat to business priorities more directly tied to revenue, but workplace learning has never been more critical than it is right now. And given the accelerating pace of workplace transformation, the need for continual upskilling will surely increase too.

This is no mere indulgence of employees whining that the office is too noisy. Providing support and training can be a competitive advantage that yields better performance, increased employee retention and engagement, and greater efficiencies.

Read the full Udemy In Depth: 2018 Workplace Distraction Report to learn more.