Allowing your mind to wander from time to time during working hours is to be expected. After all, you have emotions and feelings; it's only natural that sometimes your thoughts will drift towards weekend plans or personal worries, and as long as these occasional lapses in concentration do not affect the quality of your work, there's no harm done. But there's a difference between the odd daydream and real difficulty concentrating. Inability to concentrate could not only threaten your professional life; it may also symptomize cognitive disorders and other health concerns.
How to Recognize Concentration Difficulties
Feeling tired, struggling to focus on or feeling disinterested in work tasks, forgetting simple information, and struggling to make decisions are all indicators that you are having difficulties concentrating at work. These difficulties will manifest themselves in various ways; perhaps you find yourself procrastinating by perusing irrelevant sites on the internet, zoning out during meetings, or staring out the window for minutes at a time.
How Might This Affect Productivity at Work?
Both the quality and quantity of the work you produce is likely to decline if you have difficulties concentrating. This may be due to a lack of time spent focused on the task at hand, or lapses in concentration compromising level of detail and effort gone into the work produced.
If you are not fully immersed in the goals and processes in your workplace, your relationships with colleagues and management may also start to suffer. Without whole-hearted engagement with your job role, you are inevitably distanced from the shared values of your co-workers. Your lack of concentration may also inspire frustration or anger in your fellow colleagues and managers.
What Causes An Inability to Concentrate?
Difficulties concentrating in the workplace can derive from a variety of causes.
Studies show that those who do not regularly get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night will show a decline in attention span, memory, and decision making, the very factors that characterize concentration.
During menopause, changes in hormone levels can also affect the cognitive functions (i.e., the functions that define concentration) in the brain. As a woman approaches menopause, she is likely to experience "brain fogs," in which she struggles to process and retrieve new information. Discover how to how to treat difficulty concentrating during menopause by balancing your hormones levels.
Attitude to your work is also likely to affect your ability to concentrate on it. Do you like your job? High demands, long hours, lack of breaks, and disliking your working role could all make it difficult for you to concentrate in the workplace. A lot also depends on attitude; if you view your job as something to get through before the weekend, it is likely that you will struggle to engage with it wholeheartedly, whereas looking at your job as an exciting, positive challenge will help you immerse yourself in it.
If, with difficulty concentrating, you are also experiencing consistently negative or suicidal thoughts, tiredness, and social disengagement, you should consult your doctor as you may be suffering from depression. Depression is the most common form of disability in the world, and one in five employees suffer with the illness.
When your performance at work starts to suffer, this is a clear sign that difficulty concentrating is affecting your life. Small lifestyle changes can help you combat your difficulties, however you should identify and treat the root cause behind it. And if you are feeling depressed, exhausted, or stressed, arrange a consultation with your doctor to discuss treatment options.
- Alhola, P. & Polo-Kantola, P. (2007). Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 3(5), 553-567. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Increase Productivity. Retrieved March 17, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/businesscase/benefits/productivity.html
- Health and Safety Executive. (2013). Ergonomics and human factors at work. Retrieved March 17, 2014, from http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg90.pdf
- Medalia, A. & Revheim, N. (2012). Dealing with Cognitive Dysfunction. New York State Office of Mental Health. Retrieved March 17, 2014, from https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/cogdys_manual/CogDysHndbk.htm
- Purdue University. (n.d.). Depression at Work - reducing Stigma and Producing Outcomes. Retrieved March 17, 2014, from http://www.purdue.edu/hr/pdf/DEPRESSION_IN_THE_WORKPLACE.pdf