The answer depends on your perspective. Certainly, the daily distractions and interruptions we experience in the office are annoying. They can be costly, too. According to one estimate, distractions cost American businesses $650 billion annually. And a recent poll of office workers found that 53 percent said distractions affect their productivity.
Distractions affect the one commonality we all share—our minds. And in a work world increasingly focused on ideas, we need uninterrupted time to think and concentrate. But, in many ways, distractions are not only unavoidable, they’re desirable. “Fortuitous encounters”—those hallway, coffee-station, and copy-room conversations—allow people to get work done.
Then, too, there is the fact that so many of us are working together more than ever. “The collaborative nature of knowledge work involves socializing, sharing, and connecting,” says Herman Miller’s Ginny Baxter, “and that in itself can be distracting. Even so, people in today’s collaborative work environments need to be involved and accessible.” So how do you balance concentration and being connected? Some think glass walls may do the trick. We’d love to hear your ideas.