Do colleagues kill your productivity?

Protective equipment for the office worker Flickr user Taylor Burnes

(MoneyWatch) In the past week, I've had two surveys cross my desk suggesting that office workers are struggling with a rather insidious epidemic. No, nothing that makes you cough and sneeze. We're talking co-workers who keep you from getting your job done.

Mom Corps, a job placement firm that focuses on flexible professional work, just released a survey of more than 1,000 employed adults. The survey finds that more than half (53 percent) of workers thought they'd get more work done if they had the ability to occasionally work from home.

A few days before that, FlexJobs, another placement firm with a focus on telecommuting, asked job-seekers why they wanted remote employment. The key reason among more than 800 respondents was having fewer interruptions from colleagues (82 percent). This beat out commuting stress (77 percent; respondents could give more than one answer).

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"Quite frankly, we expected commuting stress to be at the top of the list and were surprised at how many people chose interruptions from office colleagues as their No. 1 reason," FlexJobs CEO Sara Sutton Fell said in a statement announcing the survey results.

Noted Mom Corps CEO Allison O'Kelly in an interview, "People are constantly talking to you." Plus, there are tons of other distractions. Other people's phones ring. They holler about lunch plans. You start thinking that "If I could just be at home, I could crank out my work," O'Kelly said.

If you'd like to make the case for working at home, these surveys offer an intriguing approach. Try tracking your time for a week or so at the office, noting how many times you are interrupted and how much time you are able to focus on bigger projects that require more thought. If the number of interruptions is unreasonably high, a reasonable boss might agree to let you try telecommuting a few days a week.

If you are the boss? Don't complain when people put on headphones -- they're likely just trying to shut out distractions and concentrate -- and try to let your team members see you going into a conference room a few times per day to get some focused work done. If distractions are keeping your employees from doing their jobs, no one is coming out ahead.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Taylor Burnes

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