Busy? Yes – checking my email

While technology has clearly been driving productivity of late, there is a downside – it can be so distracting, for many, it’s actually affecting their work.

Two thirds of a sample questioned for a recent survey said they get so many distractions and messages at work, they felt they were holding them back.

In fact, researchers found that 22 per cent felt they have so many distractions that their working day is never spent fully on actual work.

They questioned 1,058 staff for a 2021 Workforce Trends Survey, the results of which suggest that the days of multi-tasking are over – and that employees have now reached technology saturation.

mobile phone distractions
Distracting: some say they turn them off for an hour to concentrate

“Spinning multiple plates at once may seem to be a good way to get a lot of things done quickly,” says Gordon Wilson, CEO at Advanced, the technology company which commissioned the research.

“However, our cognitive ability is in fact impaired as our brains can’t handle the constant switching from one focus to the next very well. This consequently causes confusion and affects people’s ability to focus.

“Throw home working into the mix – where there are distractions like answering the door and household chores – and it can become incredibly hard for people to work efficiently during working hours.”

For seven in ten of those surveyed, the number of business apps they use at work has increased during Covid-19 – which is perhaps no surprise given the meteoric rise of tools such as Zoom, Teams and Slack to facilitate remote working.

For some, these have been a lifesaver and helped them to work smarter while, for others, they’ve been a hindrance – especially those who struggle to work in isolation and have spent their entire career working alongside others. In fact, 17 per cent say the uplift in apps is thwarting their productivity.

This is a great time to consider introducing new initiatives, like Friday afternoons off

One in four said they turned off their email for one hour every day to focus on urgent work. More than half said they are also expected to perform urgent tasks outside working hours, suggesting an erosion of barriers between work and home time, while nearly four in ten have taken less sick leave, potentially working on when ill.

Wilson said: “People don’t work well when they are feeling isolated, overworked and unappreciated – yet it’s clear that some managers aren’t doing what’s best for their team. It’s critical they set boundaries between working and personal hours, ensuring that staff take enough time away from their desks and not emailing teams outside of hours.

“This is a great time to consider introducing new initiatives, like Friday afternoons off, or even following the footsteps of Bumble which last month said it was giving all of its staff a week off, with full pay and the instruction to fully switch-off, to counter what it described as ‘collective burnout’.

“In addition, managers can support employees, even those working at home, by helping them to address potential distractions. It could be that employers help staff to personalise their own workspace or introduce a single sign on system which keeps all of their business apps in one place but without the negatives of multiple pinging, reminders and alarms.”

Read the full report here

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