90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, January 14, 2013

Companies Try To Limit Digital Distractions

From Facebook to Gchat, there is no shortage of digital distractions at work. (Sebastian Willnow/dapd/AP)

From Facebook to Gchat, there is no shortage of digital distractions at work. (Sebastian Willnow/dapd/AP)

As technology connects us more and more effortlessly to all aspects of work, come companies are trying to disconnect employees both at work and at home.

Atos, a global IT services company based outside of Paris with 74,000 employees, is doing its best to phase out all internal e-mails.

German auto manufacturer, Daimler AG, is doing its best to get employees to disconnect when they’re not at work.

In response to a study of employees’ work and rest habits, they recommend employees not be responsive 24/7. They’ve even created a program to delete an employees incoming e-mail while they are on vacation.


  • Wilfried Porth, in charge of human resources at Daimler AG.
  • Rachel Emma Silverman, reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Katperegrine

    I work at home, for a small company. But it takes me ages to get anything done during the workday. My co-workers (wonderful people!) text and email at all hours. “Well, you’re home,” they say to me. I’ve resorted to starting my workday at 6:30 to 7 AM so that I can get some solid blocks of time to get things done.

  • Terry — Franklin, TN

    Given some of the eamils that used to go around at one job I had.  Mostly jokes,  funny videos, funny pictures, cute pictures.   It was disruptive and caused a lot of wasted time.

  • Dennisraymeier

    For me, nothing is more distracting that a phone call at work. I don’t have caller-ID, so every answered call is a guessing game that (frequently) turns out to be answering a question that not urgent. In my experience, people who call on the phone are simply clearing an item from their to-do list in the most expedient method for them. E-mail is easily ignored; a ringing phone is harder to ignore.

  • Samgroom

    It’s not just the big, coorperate world. I work at a dental clinic and cannot get a single task done from beginning to end because the phone will ring! I swaer, a business could hire someone JUST to answer phones and other employees could get more work done.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Just because someone texts or emails doesn’t mean one has to answer.

    Even a note from your manager may not require an immediate response. Prioritize the incoming communications, ignore those that don’t need a response. Tell people you only work from “x” to “y” and will only respond during those hours. The “Hey you are home and therefore available” messages will stop.

  • lateefah

    I think “digital distractions” is a corporate distraction from the reality that productivity has not gone down since the industrial revolution. Workers  have been more and more productive with each technological break. Spending a little of the time being human is not a distraction, it’s the least any worker can get for their extended hours, stagnant wages, and shrinking benefits . In fact, for most workers, that little human time or “distraction” is the most they get for their work. For the most part, people work hard, so what if they spend that hour they used to get for lunch spread over the day doing something unrelated, that may just be what keeps them able to maintain any level of productivity at all without going insane. Humans are not robots, they should be allowed their humanity when they are producing for any company.

  • Blue_To_Shoe


    I hate to go off on a little tangent here, however…Is it just me, or was Ms. Silverman’s manner of speech really annoying?
    Is this manner of speech what’s referred to as ‘vocal fry’?

    Actually, there was a recent public radio discussion on the topic of current ‘annoying’ speech patterns among some younger women.

    Personally, I think there is a subtle racial bias element at play here: ‘black scents’, (which I find equally annoying), are seemingly condemned moreso – at least in terms of professional viability – than these suedo-valley girl accents posited by many young white and middle class/upper-class females: hence, Ms. Silverman’s obvious non-concern over her manner-of-speech negatively affecting potential job prospects as she’s already working for a very high profile publication (institution) of note such as the ‘Wall Street Journal’.

    Sorry….just couldn’t get pass her annoying way of talking.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1309250625 Cory McNair

      I believe Ms. Silverman’s vocal inflection is more “rising terminal” (valley-speak) than “vocal fry” (creaky). Either way, it makes it sound like she is mocking her topic. 

  • Amescha

    I have a relative who works for a municipality in northern California. Recently a major fibre optic line was vandalised causing their e-mail to be disabled for a day. She told me that “I got more work done that day than in quite awhile”.

  • Goodfriendzyy

    I was about to work on a report after a brief check on facebook. Well, it ended up I had spent 30 minutes on this interesting talk (a friend on facebook recommended me to listen). 

  • Conejita

    I loved this piece.  It was thorough, right on point and, unfortunately, all too true.  It helped me realize that my frustrations with digital distractions and the challenges of getting back on task may not be due to my age after all.  And there’s only 3 people in my office!

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

August 21 21 Comments

The Challenges Of Recruiting An All-Volunteer Army

The Army is meeting its targets, but the man who runs recruiting says finding qualified candidates in the 17 to 24 age group can be difficult.

August 21 Comment

Syrian Clarinetist Finds A Home For His Music

"Does the clarinet stop a bullet or does it feed a child or does it rebuild a destroyed home?" Kinan Azmeh asks. "Of course it doesn't. But... it can inspire."

August 20 Comment

James Foley Remembered For His ‘Extraordinary Courage’

U.S. officials have confirmed the authenticity of a video showing the beheading of the American journalist.

August 20 7 Comments

L.A. Moves To Arrest Fewer Misbehaving Students

The change in the school district's policy is the culmination of a long fight by judges, government officials, advocates and attorneys.