Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Stop Being So Hard on Yourself for Getting Distracted at Work

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Last month, some 20 million people tuned in to watch Kanye West’s Yeezy Season Three fashion show and listening party. At 4 PM when it was available for live streaming. 4 PM, a.k.a., in the middle of the workday. The Verge reports that it’s “unclear how viewership held up throughout the broadcast, which stretched out over almost two hours,” but then that’s not really the point.

The fact that so many people felt comfortable taking a break to focus on the latest pop culture phenomenon is pretty insane. Yet, also not that surprising. Our attention spans are low, and we’re easily distracted (especially in open offices).

The question now is, should we feel bad about this? Does taking a break to talk about Kanye West with our co-workers get categorized as a guilty pleasure? Do we need to chalk up our day to being unproductive if we’re stuck working later because we spent an hour discussing a recent TV episode?

I vote no.

Beyond our tendency to be distracted lies the kind of neat bonding factor moments like this provide. While an accounting team might get jazzed talking numbers, we can all agree that there’s something nice about bonding over a topic that isn’t inherent to the workday. I know that as helpful as it is to brainstorm career advice topics with my team, it’s also pretty cool to be able to group-chat them an article on the dysfunctional NYC subway system, something that’s totally unrelated to our work at hand but that which we can all relate (read: groan about) to.

I’d argue that these impromptu moments are just as important as getting your daily to-do list done, because it’s these conversations that make the workday more enjoyable (and for some people, bearable). We’re building camaraderie with each and every shared distraction, and when you spend 40-50 hours a week together, the importance of that is not to be underestimated.

Our workdays might be getting longer as a result of some of these little, light breaks, but if you’re happy at work and genuinely like your co-workers, you’re probably not in a rush to jet right at 5 PM anyway. Isn't it better to enjoy your day (and end it later), than to work nonstop for eight hours without relaxing or cracking a smile once? Let me answer that one for you: Yes.

So, next time you find yourself getting off track, don’t force yourself to return to your keyboard. Let it happen. Consider this permission to allow yourself to be distracted—in good company.

Photo of women laughing at work courtesy of Shutterstock.