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CanFocus tackles virtual and physical workplace distractions

August 15, 2013

We all know the drill—you’re finally ready to tackle that document, report or carefully crafted note and your phone beeps signalling a new SMS. You receive three new emails within a single minute and a Twitter notification at the top of your screen. Your co-worker across from you receives a phone call and decides to stay seated for the call, laughing loudly. You stare at your screen, sigh and start digging through those three new emails.

Workplace distractions are becoming a bigger issue as our world becomes more connected to technology, our workspaces become more open concept and our calendars fill up with meetings. Hey, maybe you’re even too distracted to finish reading this blog post.

Luckily, one MaRS client is tackling this massive problem—meet CanFocus.

“In today’s workplace, you’re being ambushed by physical and digital distractions all the time and it comes with the consequence of reduced productivity. In fact, it takes a full 15 minutes to get back to a deep level of focus after you’ve been interrupted,” explains Paul Chipperton, CEO of CanFocus. “Therefore you’re paddling around in the shallows, as opposed to doing deep dives. People end up working at home in the evenings where they can focus and concentrate, which cuts into their time with family or friends.”

CanFocus is an integrated system that “temporarily parks” incoming communications and data, protecting you from digital and physical interruptions when you are trying to focus on an important individual or team task.

It is both a hardware and software solution. The hardware piece is a sleek light indicator button that glows red or green, depending on your availability (see photo below). The software and app will be released later this year and will work seamlessly in real time, across all of the standard commonly held operating systems, devices and platforms, and mail, social, web and media apps.

The product will consist of three layers.

  1. MindFocus: Control your own digital environment. Switching the CanFocus light to red means 30 minutes of no distractions, and people will learn to leave you alone. You are digitally silenced, so you won’t be disturbed when you need to focus.
  2. MeetingFocus: The meeting organizer can silence his or her own digital device as well as the devices of those who have been invited to the meeting.
  3. ManagementFocus: Provides analytics on when you use the phone and how often, and when you work. It can help improve office layout, placing people based on the work they do to limit distractions and maximize corporate productivity.

Here’s how it works:

It hasn’t been an easy journey for CanFocus’s team of four. Since diving into the business full time four months ago, the team has essentially been working for free. Despite recently raising a $170,000 friends and family round, money continues to be the cause of stress as developers are expensive to employ, but are also critical to fully finishing the product.

As such, the CanFocus team is gearing up to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the September 9 Canadian site launch, with a $1 million fundraising goal.

There are lots of tips and tricks out there on reducing workplace distractions, but CanFocus fixes the issue at the root by pausing technology and interruptions around you. Now, get back to work!

Feature Photo credit: Head Face Silhouette Clock Time Gear Gears Blue by geralt CC0 1.0

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Jennifer Marron @ MaRS

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Jennifer Marron is Community Manager for MaRS. Prior to joining MaRS, Jennifer spent four consecutive years working at telecommunications startups in communications, marketing and PR. Her writing has appeared in The National Post, Techvibes, IT Business, CWTA Magazine and Rouge. Follow her @J_Marron

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