Effects of Individual Differences in Blocking Workplace Distractions

2018 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) |

Published by ACM


Information workers are experiencing ever-increasing online distractions in the workplace, and software to block distractions is becoming more popular. We conducted an exploratory field study with 32 information workers in their workplace using software to block online distractions for one week. We discovered that with online distractions blocked, participants assessed their focus and productivity to be significantly higher. Those who benefited most were those who reported being less in control of their work, associated with personality traits of lower Conscientiousness and Lack of Perseverence. Unexpectedly, those reporting higher control of work experienced a cost of higher workload with online distractions blocked. Those who reported the greatest increase in focus with distractions blocked were those who were more susceptible to social media distractions. Without distractions, people with higher control of work worked longer stretches without physical breaks, with consequently higher stress. We present design recommendations to promote focus for our observed coping behaviors.