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How much do distractions cost? 8 effects of lack of focus

August 24, 2022 - 14 min read


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Focus: the key to success

8 effects of lack of focus

How much does employee lack of focus cost?

Company culture, focus, and productivity: How are they related?

Has remote work increased or decreased the consequences of lack of focus?

Preventing a lack of focus can go a long way

It's a brand new workday and your to-do list is growing by the minute. Lately, though, you've been off your game. You're having a hard time focusing on certain tasks, your anxiety is overwhelming, and you've had trouble making decisions.

It's time to stop chalking it up to being "off" and call it what it is: you're feeling the effects of lack of focus at work. 

Poor concentration at work doesn't only negatively impact you, but the rest of your team. It's OK to have moments where you have poor concentration, as long as it doesn’t become the norm.

Luckily, we can improve our focus and concentration skills to flourish at work. It's not simple to do, but learning how to deal with a lack of focus is worth it. 

Let's start by seeing how important focus is for our success, and we'll go from there.


Focus: the key to success

Focus is important no matter what stage of life you’re in or what task you're doing. We rely on our focus to decide what pair of pants we want to buy and where we want to go on vacation. It helps us think clearly, be intentional with our actions, and accomplish our goals

Of course, we rely on it at work, too. Focus helps us be specific about our career path and accomplish our work goals. But when our cognitive performance slows down — which is what a lack of focus means — we let distractors win, and our progress slows.

Managers constantly try to find new ways to prevent employees from lacking focus. But everyone is susceptible to different kinds of distractions, making it difficult to find one solution for all. 

That said, one study found that when employees had distractions blocked, their productivity increased and they had a deeper sense of focus on their work. It also led to more engaged, creative, and productive workflows.

But the study also found that they couldn't go overboard with blocking distractors. Without any distractions or breaks, people worked longer hours and experienced greater stress. So while the focus is a key ingredient for success, we need a healthy balance for our mental health.

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8 effects of lack of focus

A lack of focus might point to various negative things in our lives. The side effects can disrupt our relationships, well-being, and attitudes. But for employees, having trouble concentrating can be especially detrimental.

If employees can't focus on or produce high-quality work, their jobs could be at stake. Here are eight other consequences for employees with a lack of focus:

1. Struggles finding the motivation to complete their work

2. Makes easy mistakes that should be preventable

3. Has issues with decision-making and drawing conclusions

4. Submits low-quality work and has overall poor performance at work

5. Forgets things easily because they have a poor working memory

6. Lacks physical and mental energy to work and overall tiredness


7. Produces poor collaborative work with other team members

8. Has trouble problem-solving and thinking clearly on topics

We all struggle with our concentration abilities from time to time. However, we have the power to change that. BetterUp can help you establish strategies that harness your focus. From there, you can become a more energized employee.

How much does employee lack of focus cost?

We've highlighted how a lack of focus can be bad news for employees, but we also need to talk about what it means for their workplaces. We can't forget that our actions have consequences for ourselves and those around us.

Gallup found that an employee who isn't engaged with their work can cost their workplace about 18% of their annual salary. According to the same study, about 67% of the workforce worldwide isn't engaged with their work. That’s a lot of money wasted across the globe. 


An engaged team is more passionate, interested, and motivated to succeed. If employees have trouble focusing, time and productivity are lost. Managers and team members might even grow frustrated at a slowdown. 

Plus, this problem impacts the future. A business can't grow or advance if it doesn’t have a solid, focused team of employees to back it up. Employees are key to a business's success and lifespan. Without them, the business could lose money or close.

Employees who have difficulty concentrating on their work may not follow the Whole Person approach to their work, and it shows. Perhaps they lack focus in their professional life, but their focus thrives in their personal life. We need to be consistent with our efforts and energy in every area of our life — not just one.

Company culture, focus, and productivity: How are they related?

Sometimes our lack of concentration and focus isn't because of us but our workplaces. It can be daunting to talk to our boss about a lack of focus. Remember that this conversation is important for your whole team — you might not be the only one who feels that way.

Company culture can make or break the levels of focus that employees have. Toxic work environments make employees feel unsafe. Employees can’t focus on their work because their minds are busy thinking about other issues, like being understaffed, overworked, or both.

But employees shouldn't have to worry about their safety, feel fear and anxiety over talking with their managers, or dread work meetings. 

A workplace with excellent company culture allows employees to be productive and focused. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that workplaces with positive company cultures experience more success because they value their employees' well-being and mental health.

Positive culture strengthens relationships between team members and improves their mental health, thus boosting productivity. 


HBR found six essential characteristics that a company needs to build a positive company culture. Here's what they are:

  1. Caring about your peers and colleagues and being interested in them beyond their working abilities
  2. Supporting one another with compassion and offering kindness
  3. Forgiving people for making mistakes rather than holding it against them
  4. Inspiring others to do their best work
  5. Highlighting and reminding people of the meaning behind their work
  6. Showing team members they’re respected and valued in the workplace

Has remote work increased or decreased the consequences of lack of focus?

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced employees to working remotely. People said goodbye to long commutes and hello to working in comfortable sweatsuits at home. But it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for employees.

There are many advantages to working remotely, but also have to consider how it's impacted concentration problems.

Let's start with the positives. People can create a healthier work-life balance for themselves. They have more time for their morning routines and more time to eat a breakfast that fuels their concentration.


Remote work gives employees more flexibility since they're at home and don't have to worry about commuting to and from work. 

As far as the overall success, one study found that 83% of employers said that making the change to remote work has been successful in 2021. 52% said that employee productivity has improved. 

On the other hand, remote work can hinder how we complete our work and interact with colleagues. Microsoft found that while working remotely, employees weren't collaborating as often as they usually do.

Given how important collaboration is for creativity, problem-solving, and innovation, this is a big issue. 

Plus, working entirely on our own means that not as many people hold us accountable. If we take an extra-long lunch break, who will know? Home also has plenty of distractions, like children, pets, and our TVs.

Remote work can put people in a better mindset to focus on their work. But it can also open you up to more sources of distraction and test your attention span. Remote work is different for everyone — we all have different working styles, home situations, and jobs.

So ultimately, we can’t say whether work-from-home has helped or hindered focus. That’s up to the individual.

Preventing a lack of focus can go a long way

The effects of a lack of focus impact our whole lives, but it can be especially serious in the workplace. Employees themselves face the consequences of their concentration problems, and so do their business. It can cost people their jobs and cost companies a lot of money. 

But a lack of focus is preventable. You can do concentration exercises to improve your cognitive function, for example. When we work hard to establish habits that boost our concentration, we can learn to focus better

For instance, we might need to learn what can help us focus from a lack of sleep — like coffee. Or, maybe we just need to make our night routine more relaxing so we can avoid sleep deprivation. We can also mute notifications on our social media apps to avoid a social media rabbit hole during the work day. 

But we need to acknowledge that some health conditions can cause a lack of focus, too. Seeking help from healthcare professionals might be necessary.

Mental health conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression can be behind our lack of focus.

However we choose to better our focus and concentration abilities, it's important to remember that it's a skill that'll bring us many benefits. Building these habits now will ensure that we're focused on our improving future and every moment in between.

By working with BetterUp, you can learn what strategies you need to boost your focus. Then, you can create an action plan custom to your needs.

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Published August 24, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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