How to cope with on-the-job annoyances

How to cope with on-the-job annoyances


By Neil Amato

From computer crashes to thermostat clashes, small workplace annoyances can add up to almost six hours of wasted time per week, according to one survey.

A report on work habits by Samsung shows that if on-the-job obstacles are not addressed by employers, then annoyed employees might be doing more than heading out of the office in search of solitude. The workers might leave the job altogether.

The research shows that 30% of UK workers have left a job because they were irritated by a colleague. While most don’t take that extreme step, the research showed that co-workers who are loud or prone to interrupt regularly can lead to productivity loss of 22 minutes a day. Combined with the other main categories of productivity loss, the total time lost to workplace irritation was 5.5 hours per week.

Computer crashes or slow internet speeds were the most common workplace annoyance, chosen by 92% of respondents. Among the other irritants: 82% said being too hot or too cold disrupted work, and 81% said uncomfortable seating was a concern.

Disagreements over the thermostat are frequent, other research shows. A 2015 US survey by CareerBuilder showed that 20% of workers had argued with a co-worker about office temperature; 53% said being in a cold office was detrimental to productivity, and 71% said that being too warm hindered work.

When such clashes occur, workers are advised to take a break of some sort. The Samsung report included this advice of Cary Cooper, a professor at the University of Manchester and an expert on workplace issues:

Speak up. If a co-worker’s behaviour is distracting you, or you’re having to bring in blankets from home to stay warm, say something.

Be patient. Internet or network outages happen, so you should have a list of tasks to complete during such times. For instance, clearing your desk of clutter or making phone calls while your computer is updated can help you maintain efficiency.

Connect with people. Amid a constant barrage of technology-induced interruptions, it can be difficult to be fully present during one-on-one conversations or larger meetings. Sandy Sloyer, CPA, CGMA, an independent finance consultant who has worked as a CFO, said learning to set aside times to respond to electronic messages is a solid first step to improving interpersonal skills. “You feel that pressure to respond to every beep and every ding or every email that comes in, because you want to be involved, you want to not miss anything,” she said. “We all need to just use the technology where it’s positive and remember how to have those personal relationships.”

Take stress breaks. The Samsung survey said workers like to deal with minor computer annoyances by making a cup of tea or coffee (42%). But some irritations lead to more extreme coping mechanisms. For instance, 33% report sleep difficulties, 21% vent frustrations to loved ones, and 19% overeat or consume alcohol. A walk outside or dedicated time spent away from your desk can help to alleviate stress.

Exercise. A greater level of fitness can help to diminish the effects of workplace stress. Angela Ho, CPA, CGMA, senior vice president and principal accounting officer at OceanFirst Bank in Toms River, New Jersey, occasionally takes a break for exercise. “I have slotted in runs or yoga in the middle of the day, and when I come back to work, I’m far more effective,” Ho said. “I’m surprised, but getting to leave and clear my mind, I come back totally recharged as if I’m starting the day all over again.”

Neil Amato (Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.