Multitasking is killing your team’s productivity

Mariano Rodríguez Colombelli
Jul 25, 2017

Our office started with just a handful of “jack of all trade” type team members, just like many of you I’m sure have experienced. For companies today, thanks to fast-paced everything, taking on multiples roles is standard for employees. Luckily, millennials seem to pride themselves on their ability to “multitask”.

With tighter deadlines, 24 hour schedules, and an increased sense of urgency across the business landscape, multitasking looks like the only way to the top.

Well, that’s not at all true, according to multiple scientific studies.

People who attempt to multitask at work actually experience a 40% decrease in productivity overall. And, really, only 2% of us can successfully multitask.

Still multitasking is our autopilot at work for most of us. What we should be doing instead is engaging in deep work in periods throughout the day.

What is “Deep Work”?

Deep work is “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task,” according to productivity mastermind, Cal Newport. Those who consistently engage in deep work actually develop abilities to process complicated information and produce quality work more efficiently. Much more efficiently than an employee constantly trying to multitask.

So how do we stop promoting multitasking and start promoting deep work in the office?

There’s a few different methods you can start introducing to help your employees become truly productive:

1.  Work has to be hard sometimes 

One of the unavoidable things about true, hard work is it’s just not always going to be fun. So many companies are focused on making everything engaging and collaborative, productivity is suffering. We need to reintroduce the ideas that there are going to be periods throughout the day where individuals are going to have to buckle down and do the boring stuff. But always reward times of hard work with relaxing breaks regularly to keep everyone motivated.

2. Schedule uninterrupted blocks of time 

The amount of times per day your team members are likely interrupted throughout the day by emails, calls, meetings, etc is probably much more than you realize. It takes approximately 20 minutes for someone to refocus on a task after getting a notification. Can you imagine how much time is wasted refocusing because of constant multitasking? It’s much more efficient just to engage in periods of uninterrupted deep work. Allow employees to schedule blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on tasks throughout the day and communicate and collaborate outside of this scheduled time.

3. Allow for closed off space 

Part of deep work is eliminating all distractions. A lot of companies have eliminated private space work in favor of more collaborative environments like open office space. While this has its perks, it’s also a huge opportunity for distraction. Allowing space where employees can block themselves off from the rest of the group to concentrate for hours at a time is a great way to encourage complete concentration without distraction.

4. Set serious deadlines 

There’s something about a tight deadline that kicks people into higher degree of concentration. Think back to cramming before a big exam at school. Try the same tactic with your team. Increase your deadline expectations and put deadlines on tasks that you normally wouldn’t to keep a sense of urgency. Without that sense of urgency, it’s easy to fall prey to distraction and out of a deep work mode.

Though deep work is generally an individual feat, it helps to use tactics like these to promote a higher level of concentration among team members at work. You’ll notice less half-finished tasks and projects as well as a higher quality of work overall. We hope these tips are helpful to you and your team and you can apply some of these to your own work!

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