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How to hold attention: Distracted minds cost UK economy £19.9bn a year, QEII research reveals


Scrolling on social media, checking messages, daydreaming and other distractions are costing the UK economy a staggering £19.9 billion each year, groundbreaking new research by The QEII Centre has revealed. The report: ‘The Distracted Economy: We are losing focus – how to hold attention and keep delegates engaged during business meetings and events’ commissioned by London’s leading conference and events venue, reveals that 83% of people admit to being distracted during in-person meetings while the number rises to 85% during online meetings.

And while the nation’s dwindling focus is harming productivity and profitability, it is also something that’s worrying individuals. Over a third (38%) of workers claimed to be concerned about their ability to be fully focused during meetings or events, according to the findings.

The survey of 1,000 UK desk-based workers who attend both online and in-person meetings was carried out by The QEII Centre to better understand – and tackle – the growing concern of distraction.

The report takes a deep dive into the issue to better understand the challenges faced by delegates in their battle to stay focused and fight distractions.

How to hold attention and stay focused: Among the key findings are

The crisis of attention:

The research found that distraction during online meetings costs the UK economy more (£11.1 billion) than in-person meetings (£8.8 billion).
At work, over a third of people (38%) are concerned about their ability to be fully focused and fully concentrating during business meetings or events, and in everyday life, 43% admit to often being easily distracted during their leisure time.

Working in a post-pandemic age:

Over one third (36%) of respondents believe that their work colleagues have become more easily distracted during in-person business meetings and events.

Distracted economy:

It is alarming to see that a significant majority – 83% – of respondents openly admit to losing focus during in-person meetings, and 85% during online meetings.

Senior management is not immune to distractions, with 40% of them admitting to being distracted for a third of the meeting.

smartphone-distraction-at-events-and-meetings-how-to-hold-attention Preference for In-Person Meetings:

The study revealed that the majority of respondents (49%) prefer in-person meetings over online alternatives whenever possible.

More than half of the respondents (52%) agreed that productivity is higher when everyone attends in-person meetings compared to online meetings.

To understand how to move forward and help the event industry, event planner expert Simon Hughes adds some valuable first-hand insights and guidance throughout the report.

Simon explains: “This report is essential for event planners and venues. By analysing what distracts delegates, we can plan how to cope with the competing demands for attention. It also showcases that we are sociable animals that need to collaborate in person to boost engagement and productivity. Despite the number of people who enjoy remote working, the preferred meeting format is in person over online. This is really good news for venues – but they will have to offer more flexibility with their spaces, formats and tools to capture attention.”

Mark Taylor, chief executive at The QEII Centre, says: “In this increasingly distracted world, we thought it was crucial to understand the causes behind the deficit in attention span and what can be done about it. Something has to change. From being distracted by digital tools to boredom and multi-tasking, the findings reveal the reasons behind the distraction and help us understand the need for more engaging interactions. With this report, we hope to help professionals in the event industry to collaborate impactfully, and meet the ever-changing delegate’s needs of the future.”

The decline of attention span is a growing concern, but with this comprehensive research, The QEII Centre provides an insightful guide for professionals to develop strategies to promote sustained focus and concentration and increase productivity and collaboration during meetings and events.

You can find more information about this research or to access the complete report.

The QEII Centre

Widely regarded as a beacon of British excellence, the QEII Centre seeks to deliver unbeatable service and choice for events, meetings and conference organisers across the world.

The 7-floor QEII Centre offers 32 adaptable conference and events spaces, with capacity for up to 1,300 theatre style in a single room. World-class facilities for high profile conferences, conventions, exhibitions and corporate events have capacity for up to 2,500 delegates. Around 400 national and international events are hosted there each year. The centre sits opposite World Heritage Site, Westminster Abbey.

The QEII Centre has won multiple awards for work across all areas of the business including London Venue Awards 2021 Silver for Most Versatile London Venue and Bronze for Best Events Venue Over 750 Attendees, Peoples’ Government Award, Greengage ECOsmart Gold Award, Venue of the Year at the Drum Experience Awards 2020, the Green Tourism Silver Award.

Explore the hireable events spaces available at the centre by visiting