U.S. office workers get interrupted on the job as often as 11 times an hour, costing as much as $588 billion to U.S. business each year, according to research.
Adding the distracting lure of checking e-mails, surfing the Internet and chatting by computer, and workers interrupt themselves nearly as much as they are interrupted by others, experts say.
"With instant messaging on your desktop and alerts and e-mail notifications, you set yourself up for it," said John Putzier, founder of FirStep Inc. business strategists in Prospect, Pennsylvania.
The barrage of interruptions and distractions only worsens at this time of year, experts say.
"We have more things pulling at us," said Jonathan Spira, chief executive of Basex, a business consulting firm that researched the cost of interruptions.
From online shopping at work to planning the office holiday party, workers are bombarded with distractions, he said.
"These holiday distractions result in more interruptions. It's certainly a recipe for even less work getting done, no question about it," he said.
A typical manager is interrupted six times an hour, one recent study showed, while another found the average cubicle worker is interrupted more than 70 times a day.
Other research has found office workers getting interrupted every 11 minutes, while another study said nearly half of workplace interruptions are self-imposed.
A study by Basex found office distractions take up 2.1 hours of the average day --28 percent-- with workers taking an average of five minutes to recover from each interruption and return to their original tasks.