Office workers are being overwhelmed by distractions at work and this is having a significant impact on personal and business performance.

According to new research analysis by Steelcase, the world's leading provider of high performance office furniture solutions, distractions and a lack of focus are having a negative effect on productivity, engagement and wellbeing. This phenomenon is being caused by a poor understanding of how to manage attention in the workplace.

This is a critical issue for both employers and employees and will be addressed by Steelcase at 100% Design, the UK’s largest design trade event taking place in London this week. Steelcase will be bringing together leading experts to share their knowledge on the current issues and trends facing workplace culture by hosting a series of themed talks and debates.

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Controlled attention can be hard to achieve in spaces where our brains pick up a lot of distractions. Also, the brain has finite energy capacity, using around 20% of the body’s energy. Our brain’s natural rhythm throughout the day is alternating periods of controlled attention with periods of down time. It is simply impossible for workers to engage in eight straight hours of focused work.

Steelcase’s research has shown that workers in the UK are dissatisfied with most aspects of their workplaces. Although UK workers are relatively happy with their jobs and the connections with colleagues at work, the research revealed that there is a growing problem of concentrating easily at work, being disrupted when working in teams, and the lack of flexibility when it comes to choosing where to work.

Speaking at 100% Design, Veerle De Clerck, responsible for Research Communications in the UK, said:We have become increasingly aware that distractions are effecting how we work. Distractions and a lack of focus is not just detrimental for employee engagement, but it can also be damaging to the performance of business.

“We strive to be more productive, more effective, but often it is our surrounding open environment which is hindering this. Employers and employees have a poor understanding of what attention is, let alone how it can be managed. We need to alter our habits and re-think how we use space to help employees focus and think better.

“It’s all about being a bit more creative and re-think our concept of the workplace ensure that it is less rigid so that workers are able to reach their optimum levels of focus and minimise the negative effects of distractions.

Speakers from Steelcase will discuss how offices can be designed to enhance productivity, minimise the effect of distractions, promote workers’ wellbeing and drive business performance

Architectural and design experts will consider whether there has been a shift from generic offices to workspaces that promote key work behaviours and enhance employee wellbeing. Additionally, leaders and researchers in workplace solutions will address the question of whether we should bother designing offices that support wellbeing if employees are happy to work from home or a third place.

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