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The true and maybe only reason behind employees’ lack of focus at work

There are a lot of things that distract us in the office when we are meant to be working, and it turns out the real problem is our open-plan offices.

Open-plan offices are so omnipresent now because it’s thought they promote communication, interaction and collaboration. But actually they are source of infinite distractions, preventing us from focusing on our work.

It’s all down to something called ‘visual noise’, which is “the activity or movement around the edges of an employee’s field of vision,” The Independent reports.

Employers are starting to realise this and are looking for ways to minimise the visual noise, to make their workforce more focused and thus more productive.

“I wish there were such a thing as human blinders,” says Maya Spivak, marketing and communications director for San Francisco-based software company Segment.

She says she could “barely ever focus” because the movement of her colleagues was too distracting.

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But eventually the company moved offices to a place where the arrangement is more like a labyrinth, with walls, corners and large potted and hanging plants separating employees’ desks from people walking by.

Spivak now spends her workdays sitting in a corner between an empty workstation and a window with view over the sky, which definitely has boosted her productivity.

“If we see a bunch of people gathering in our peripheral vision, we wonder, ‘What are they talking about? Did somebody get laid off? Are they coming to lay me off?’” says Sally Augustin, an environmental psychologist.

Companies are trying to combat this. Some are encouraging employees to move to sofas with their laptops or to private rooms for brief periods over the course of the day, others are providing curved computer screens or even paint the walls grey because dim colours are less distracting.

Claire Reynolds