Digital Distraction and HR’s role in it

The HR department has many responsibilities and accountabilities. But where should HR focus their attention?

Ensuring compliance with employment laws, faster recruitment, better retention, and positive corporate culture are all required activities for a successful HR department. Here is one activity that HR should bring to the forefront of it yearly objectives: the reduction of digital distraction.

Fundamentally, one could argue that HR is about employee productivity and well-being. If HR gets those two things right, the business will be successful and the employees will be content. Unfortunately, HR is not doing its job when it comes to technology. The research is in: digital distraction and multi-tasking is taking its toll on employee’s well-being and an organization’s productivity.

Here is an enlightening quote from the Globe and Mail’s Eric Andrew-Gee in January 2018:

“Your smartphone is making you stupid, antisocial and unhealthy.”

That is a very depressing and overwhelming statement. HR’s job is to prevent this in the workplace. It does not stop there, according to HRD Canada. Multitasking affects our cognitive ability as well and it can reduce the male IQ by 15% and the female IQ by 5 %, and an overall decrease in productivity by 25%. Click here to read the HRD Canada article.

If this is not enough to shock you, research from Harvard Business Review states that digital distraction costs the U.S. economy $997 billion annually.

What can and should HR do to reduce the negative effects of smartphones and multitasking? HR must lead the way and start to have the conversation to put policies in place to change employee’s behavioural addiction to smartphones. Next, HR must build in breaks for employees to disengage from information overload. Read this HRB article to learn about greater details on how HR can help to improve the workplace and employees interface with technology.

HR should lead the charge to overcome the negative effects of smartphones and multitasking in the workplace to produce smarter, more social and healthy employees.

Discussion Questions:

  • Draft a smartphone usage policy that address the negative effectives of technology.
  • What can organizations do to reduce information overload from emails and workplace social media notifications?

Time for Disruption


To paraphrase Heraclitus, change is the only constant – nothing stands still. This, it would seem, is true of the theories that shape change-management itself. With the evolution of technological innovations, we have left behind ‘traditional’ change paradigms and have moved into the realm of data-based disruptors impacting organizational change.

Disruption embraces a tumultuous approach to existing business practices. It turns traditional practices on their heads, through the rapid implementation of technology-based systems. Disruption leads to the destruction of the old ways in order for new ways to take root and grow.

As disruptors impact all levels of organizational strategy, Human Resources must react and respond constructively in order to overcome any of the destructive elements. Simultaneously we must push for new, creative approaches in HR’s technology-based new world.

Canadian-focused HR disruptors are explored in a round table discussion posted by Human Resources Director Canada.

Key messages arising from this panel discussion include the impact of the ‘want it now’ customer, which translates into the ‘want it now’ employee. Human Resources must be adaptive, nimble and mobile in order to meet the challenges of all consumers including those within our own workforces.

Disruptors are here and they are carving the path for Human Resources planning and strategy. According to the experts, as Human Resources practitioners, we cannot be tethered to the past because that is an anchor leading to organizational death and destruction.

Today’s disruptors must be perceived as agents of freedom compelling us forward into the constant of ongoing change.

Best to embrace it. Here it comes!

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the term ‘disruptors’ mean to you as an HR professional?
  2. How does the perception that employees are customers shape your own approach to working as a Human Resources professional?
  3. What does the Human Resources department need to do in order to meet the demands of the ‘want it and want it now’ approach from customers and/or employees?