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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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Positive distractions are a good thing, says study


A lot has been written about negative distractions in the workplace and how it can take 25 minutes to regain your focus when interrupted. Generally speaking we treat all distractions equally but science suggests there’s a difference between those perceived as positive and those perceived as negative.

According to lead author Florin Dolcos, positive interruptions are less disruptive due to human evolution: they’re seen as “less imperative than negative ones, because the immediate costs of not paying attention to them are typically smaller.”

Participants in the study were asked to complete a memory task but were interrupted with positive, negative or neutral images before their performance was tested.

The findings suggest positive distractions are linked to increased performance compared to negative distractions i.e. they grab your attention but won’t distract you from completing your task.

Some of the ways employees tend to ‘positively’ distract themselves as a break from work include:

  • Listening to favourite songs
  • Watching funny videos
  • Looking at funny pictures

Read the full article at

Minimising distractions forms part of the wider movement of engineering effective work environments that work with the human condition and can include:

  • Work chunking rather than multi-tasking
  • Home or quiet-environment working for tasks requiring significant concentration e.g. writing
  • Time management so that ‘mindless’ tasks are undertaken when work environments are busiest
Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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