Understanding Digital Distraction and Its Harmfulness

The fear of digital distractions ruining professional and personal lives has become global. This problem is as real as any these days. Just think about the hundreds of times people touch or check their phones on a daily basis, how people panic when they temporarily misplace their device, the weird sensation of the “phantom vibration syndrome” and how just by seeing a message alert can be even more distracting than the message itself.

These types of behaviours can have real-life consequences. For instance, some people may be offended if someone all of a sudden stops talking to them in order to answer a text. Even taking a moment to answer a message can hinder your thinking process and prevent you from deep thinking on the task you had at hand.

In all fairness, this is just one side of the story. It must be stated that emerging technologies nowadays keep humans connected on a level never seen before. But this tells only part of the story.

Workplace productivity has been one of the main issues for HR professionals since the beginning of organised labour. Every organisation seeks to maximise its return on labour whilst also minimising wasted time. Advances in the field of technology have helped that ‘quest’ in many ways, but they have also complicated an underlying and very old problem. Emails and applications such as Slack allow employees from various parts of the country or even the world to get answers, solve problems and collaborate in real-time. Nonetheless, given our ‘always online’ culture, communication technologies have stopped being helpful, but rather more of an impediment.

In a recent study, it has been revealed that 84% of email users keep their inbox open at all times, with 70% of these emails being opened within 6 seconds of being received.

Given peoples’ proficiency at responding to emails and messages, most of them have sacrificed their most important ability: doing their job properly. Much of what people do requires deep focus and time to think. Having the email open all the time and answering to them as quickly as possible steals focus. Even more worryingly, is that some employees may become frustrated with the work they actually get to accomplish in one day. But just how bad are emails and other communication technologies?

In order to discover the answer to this question, anonymous data has been collected from over 50,000 white-collar workers and the results were flabbergasting. The majority of them were struggling with the distractions and interruptions that took place in the workplace. It is clear that people all around the world are having difficulties keeping up with the pace at which things are happening.

Recently, a company in New Zealand decided to try a productivity experiment and had switched to a 4-day, 32-hour workweek. According to the company at-hand, “workers said the change motivated them to find ways of increasing their productivity while in the office. Meetings were reduced from two hours to 30 minutes, and employees created signals for their colleagues that they needed time to work without distraction.”

The New Zealand study brings to light very important lessons that numerous organisations can apply worldwide with or without the 4-day workweek. If companies create the right environment for employees to focus without distractions, productivity levels rise.

Many experts in the field of productivity have suggested batching communications into specific blocks during the day, while others have suggested committing to at least an hour of focused work without emails and phones.

White-collar workers such as writers, designers, developers, and project managers, unfortunately, depend on collaboration, quick communication and access to information in order to meet the demands of their roles and deadlines.

Communication tools facilitate getting the information needed, but they are also a constant source of interruption to our focused work. When we looked at the data, we found that the average white-collar employee “checks in” with communication tools every 6 minutes.

How can we expect workers to accomplish focused work when they only have a few minutes in between answering e-mails and messages? The short answer is that we cannot.

As we look at the full breakdown, the picture is even bleaker. Thirty-five percent of workers check their emails and messages every 3 minutes or less, while only 18% can go more than 20 minutes without being reeled into a ‘digital conversation’.

Even more worrisome, it has been discovered that people who use Slack—a popular team chat tool meant to reduce e-mail use—actually switched to communication tools more often. Rather than streamlining their communication time, Slack users on average spent only 5 minutes in between messaging check-ins, while non-Slack users could go 8 minutes.

The technology that we use to improve work is hurting our ability to get work done. The constant communication interruptions are not only diminishing productivity but also hindering workers from doing their best work and growing in their careers.

Data gathered shows that 40% of white-collar employees never get 30 minutes straight of focused time in a workday, which means that nearly half of them rarely get time for deep work and concentration. In fact, the study revealed that the average white-collar taps out at around 40 minutes of focused time free from any sort of communication. In other words, 40 minutes was the longest stretch of time most people could afford going without checking their emails or phones. A willingness to change and better time management should put anyone of the right path to avoid any digital distraction.

There is a real value in providing companies with the tools to carry out regular organisational assessments and this is where Great People Inside comes to your aid. Our online platform offers the best solutions and tools for your company to thrive in every type of industry and any possible situation your organisation may find itself. In terms of lowering your employee turnover rates, we recommend our GR8 Full Spectrum assessment for hiring and 360° Survey for retention. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It requires deep knowledge of your own organisation’s culture and a keen understanding of the candidate’s personality, strengths, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you find employees who can flourish and reach the highest performance required to constantly bring your company forward.

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The Basics of Nonverbal Communication (Part Two)

There are many recruiters who decide whether or not a candidate is worthy due to their body language while they waiting in the lobby or walking towards the conference room where the interview takes place.

It is common knowledge that the recruitment process and employee turnover represent challenges in today’s global environment. There are many cases when nonverbal communication is more revealing than what a candidate says their previous experience or their references. It is that vital. Recruiters will pay close attention to a candidate’s nonverbal communication.

As a recruiter, your focus points are the signals regarding the candidate’s attitude, interests, hobbies, outlook and approach. As actions speak louder than words, so do nonverbal signals during an interview, due to the fact that an employer can determine a candidate’s references in regards to: the necessary skills to perform well at the job, cultural fit in the organisation and behavioural characteristics that may determine how successful a candidate is for the job.

Here are a few examples in which recruiters are as observant as possible in terms of nonverbal communication:

First Impressions

The first minutes of an interview are very important so much so that almost nothing else matters. Recruiters take a look at the candidate and note all of the nonverbal messages they are exhibiting. They form impressions ranging from a candidate’s posture, handshake, outfit, attentiveness, facial expressions and eye contact.


Notice whether the candidate displays a firm and solid handshake. A confident, comfortable person uses the handshake as a positive nonverbal interaction. The handshake should assure the employer of the candidate’s desire for a positive first interaction and impression. Consequently, a limp handshake reveals low confidence and self-esteem. Last but not least, an excessively strong handshake tells the recruiter the candidate is overly aggressive or even trying to steamroll him or her.

 Posture and Space Usage

If the candidate is sitting comfortably and upright in his chair that means he’s most likely confident and comfortable with whom he or she is.  If their posture is slouchy it may very well mean that they do sloppy work and have a low self-esteem.  In general, posture which allows the individual to use an appropriate amount of space in the room reveals the security the applicant holds in his or hers abilities.

Clothing and general appearance

No matter how formal or informal the work environment is, it is adamant for a job applicant to wear a suit to the meeting. The accessories that accompany the candidate are equally important. If they show up with a briefcase, shined shoes, a leather-bound portfolio and so on, demonstrates the professionalism that lies within that person. It also reveals the fact that they wanted to make a proper first impression.

If the candidate sought out to look professional for the interview and it did not happen chances are that is as good as it’s ever going to get. In this scenario, the recruiter has to decide whether that person is a good fit for the company and hope at a change for the better in the near future.

Facial Expressions and Body Language

Nothing says more about a candidate than their facial expressions and body language.

Numerous books and research has been done on the science of facial expressions and body language. The key here is to discover whether a person’s facial expressions and body language match the words that are being said.

Facial expressions that do not match the spoken words clearly indicate discomfort or lying and these are not desired traits in any candidate. There are candidates who never make eye contact and stare at a spot behind the employer’s shoulder. This exhibits that they are uncomfortable and show a serious lack of confidence. Consistency between facial expressions and the words spoken is crucial.

Body language is similarly important. If the job applicant is leaning back in his seat and has his legs crossed, he’s too relaxed for an interview setting and may deal with costumers the same way. If they have occupied the entire table with their arms and various accessories, that displays aggressiveness and may turn out to be a difficult employee to manage after being hired.  Another good example is, if during a statement, the candidate looks away from the recruiter or is generally nervous, then he or she is probably not telling the truth. If candidates practically stare into the employer’s eyes as they’re talking that most likely means that what they are saying is 100% fabricated.

It is always going to be difficult to tell whether a candidate is being truthful or not, but the key here is “listen” carefully at what they are not saying.

Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation, can be a very challenging task. It requires deep knowledge of your own organisation’s culture and keen understanding of the candidate’s personality, strengths, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you find employees who can flourish and reach the highest performance required to constantly bring your company forward.

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The Basics of Nonverbal Communication (Part One)

Peter F. Drucker once said that “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said” and the phrase couldn’t have been truer. In essence, nonverbal communication represents the information a person delivers besides verbal communication. But how exactly do people communicate in a nonverbal matter? Let’s explore the possibilities:

  • Body language: The manner in which a person moves either his hands, arms, legs, sits, stands and other slight movements.
  • Facial expressions: The human face is tremendously expressive, especially the mouth, eyebrows and eyes. As the research done by Dan Hill and other worldwide researchers; emotions such as disgust, confusion, pain, anger and happiness can be easily depicted on a person’s facial expressions or “micro-expressions” as they are known as.
  • Posture: The manner in which you present yourself in public can be used by others to determine your state of mind. For example, if you’re sitting rigidly in your chair, people will, consciously or not, determine that you’re anxious or afraid. On the other hand, if you lean back in a relaxed manner people will assume you’re confident.
  • Eye contact: The majority of people believe that, when eye contact is being made, that person is trustworthy. This is not always the case. Even though eye contact can be used to transmit emotions and to create a bond between speakers, it can also be used to simulate interest and mislead people.
  • Gestures: In particular, hand gestures are obvious communication carriers. The movement of one’s hands can help emphasise an idea or an argument.

If used effectively, nonverbal communication can be a powerful complementary agent to the spoken word and can help people get their message across language and cultural barriers, due to the fact that it’s pretty much universal. In other words, nonverbal communication creates a special bond with verbal communication and adds profound meaning to it.

However, this form of communication must be dealt with great care. Due to its subconscious level, you may express something verbally, but non-verbally you may pass on a totally different idea and that confuses the receiver of the message.

When Nonverbal and Verbal Communication Don’t Match

There are numerous circumstances when this type of situation can occur. For instance, when a manager asks his employee if everything is alright, he might get a positive response, but everything related to that employee’s posture, lack of smile, facial expression and tone will give out the exact opposite response.

Nonverbal communication represents a powerful tool in day-to-day activities such as meetings, hallway interactions and even outside business hours when people are gathering together for a meal. It can also be tremendously helpful when dealing with stakeholders, customers, associates, partners due to the fact that it adds gravitas and trust to the spoken words.

Although it may seem unlikely, nonverbal communication can be taught if carefully practiced and managed. Clear improvements can be observed when delivering your messages across to people. If this skill is not well-trained you may look sloppy and ineffective damaging office relations, thus resulting into low job performances all across your department or company.

A strong business education can take you so far, but without the necessary people and communication skills, there is a chance for mishaps to occur, stammering your professional growth along the way.

Try out our assessment in order to measure the level of wellbeing in your organisation and find out the best approach to improve it.