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Here's Why 33% of Employees Are Distracted at Work

By Maurie Backman - Feb 26, 2018 at 7:42AM

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Hint: It has nothing to do with their smartphones.

It's not unusual for workers to get distracted from time to time, or even somewhat frequently. And when we think about common sources of distraction, we tend to gravitate toward chatty coworkers, constant emails, and the persistent dinging of our cell phones. But it's not just people and technology that cause employees to lose focus on job-related tasks. A good 33% of workers are distracted by personal financial issues, according to a PwC study, and it's potentially putting their jobs on the line.

In fact, 46% of those distracted by financial stress say they spend three hours or more each week dealing with related issues at work. Not only is that a lot of productive time to potentially be giving up, but it's also the sort of habit that could cause those already plagued with financial anxiety to compromise their job security. (Notice the irony: You're stressed about money, so your behavior causes you to risk your sole source of money. Not a good thing.)

Professional woman looking at a mobile phone as she sits before a laptop at a desk.


If you've been spending countless working hours harping over financial issues and not getting your job done, it's imperative that you take steps to break that routine. Otherwise, your stress level might rise exponentially when your employer catches on.

1. Pad your emergency fund

Countless adults stress over the notion of having to deal with an unplanned expense. And it makes sense, considering that 57% of U.S. adults have less than $1,000 in the bank. But if you take steps to establish a solid emergency fund, you won't have to worry as much about those unforeseen costs. Ideally, your emergency savings should suffice to cover three to six months' worth of living expenses. Stick to the higher end of that range, and you'll have an easier time not only sleeping at night, but also focusing during the workday.

2. Create a budget

It's hard to feel secure financially when you have no idea where your money is going. If you're anxious about your finances, a good way to get on top of them is to create a budget. That way, you'll see how much you're spending, how much you can afford to spend, and where you have room to do better. Incidentally, creating a budget goes hand in hand with the aforementioned piece of advice; you'll have an easier time boosting your savings once you learn to better manage your personal cash flow.

3. Increase your retirement savings rate

Many workers worry about retirement and living off a limited income. And with the future of Social Security being somewhat uncertain, it's natural for those without much savings to stress over the idea of not having a steady paycheck. But the best way to alleviate these fears is to build enough of a nest egg to buy yourself that peace of mind. Currently, you can contribute up to $5,500 a year to an IRA if you're under 50, and $6,500 if you're 50 or older. If you have access to a 401(k), you get to contribute up to $18,500 annually if you're under 50, or $24,500 if you're 50 or older. Even if you can't max out either account type, saving more than your current rate is a good way to set yourself on the right path.

4. Stay out of debt

Americans have a tendency to charge up a storm, as evidenced by the fact that U.S. credit card debt recently reached an all-time high. But that credit card debt comes at a price -- interest. And the longer you carry a balance, the more money you're going to lose out on. If you're already stressed financially, do yourself a favor and stay out of debt. That way, you can put the money you'd otherwise throw out on interest into your bank account instead. And if you're already in debt, take steps to eliminate it quickly -- by prioritizing your costliest balances and working your way downward from there.

5. Ask your employer for support

Just as plenty of businesses offer health insurance and other such perks for employees, so, too, are a growing number of companies offering financial wellness programs. If you're baffled by your 401(k), struggling to save, or have no idea whether you're adequately insured, your employer might be a solid resource to tap -- so if a financial wellness program doesn't already exist in your workplace, ask for it. You'd be amazed at what a little guidance might do for your stress level.

Though you can't just snap your fingers and magically make your financial worries go away, you can take steps to improve your personal picture, thus easing some of that concern. And the sooner you do, the less likely you are to compromise your job inadvertently.

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