by Alex Palmer | April 03, 2015
A new Accenture report finds that in an increasingly digital workplace, listening has gotten more difficult. The report, released in conjunction with last month's International Women's Day, finds that while the vast majority of professionals (96 percent) consider themselves good listeners, almost two-thirds of them (64 percent) believe it has become significantly more difficult to listen in today's workplace.

Titled #ListenLearnLead, the study draws on a global survey of more than 3,600 business professionals from all sized companies and a wide range of roles, from entry-level to upper management. It found that "digital distractions are becoming an ongoing challenge for those trying to get work done throughout the day.

A major way in which these distractions play out is in requiring workers to multitask. Four-fifths (80 percent) of respondents admitted to multitasking during conference calls - 35 percent instant message, 34 percent answer personal emails, while 22 percent update their social media accounts. In part, this is related to the age of the workers. Millennials showed themselves to be the most comfortable with multitasking (with 64 percent saying they spend half their day doing so), followed by Gen Xers (54 percent), and Baby Boomers (49 percent).

The onslaught of tasks and information coming at individuals also concerned a majority of company leaders. More than half (55 percent) admitted to experiencing "information overload," while 52 percent found it a challenge to keep up with fast-changing technology. On the flip side, 58 percent of all respondents said they felt technology enables leaders to communicate more easily with their teams, while 46 percent felt it increased accessibility. 

Not all distractions are related to digital. More than three-quarters of respondents (79 percent) cite phone calls as an interrupter to their workday while 72 percent point to pop-in visitors and unexpected meetings as major distractors. This was more than twice those that indicated that instant messaging (30 percent) and texting (28 percent) tended to interrupt their work.