Why multitasking is an employee productivity killer

Why multitasking is an employee productivity killer

Imagine you are currently working on finding a candidate to fill a job posting. Your mind wanders, and you're tempted to check the number of applicants you got for another job posting. Should you resist the temptation? Research suggests you should: Multitasking often kills productivity. Continue reading as we share this guide about how you can help your team improve their focus and enhance productivity.

Why multitasking hurts productivity

We all want to get projects and tasks done quickly and efficiently. Facing looming deadlines while waiting for employees to complete their work is never fun. However, having employees jump from task to task isn't the answer because it can reduce concentration and work quality, ultimately leading to handling projects and tasks multiple times to get the needed quality, which can actually lead to exceeding those looming deadlines.

If employees try to complete multiple tasks at the same time, they can't focus on all the little details, resulting in a lack of quality and double work. Double work comes from having to redo the work because of missing or incorrect details, contributing to an overall loss in productivity.

Want to finish projects faster? Do them one at a time

Suppose that finishing Project A takes one week if you concentrate on it, and Project B also takes one week. If you do Project A first and then Project B, you'll finish Project A after one week and Project B after two weeks, with an average project completion time of one and a half weeks. Now suppose you jump back and forth between Project A and Project B every couple of hours. Although you'll finish both projects after two weeks, multitasking has delayed Project A for a week without benefiting Project B.

2020 study found that the increase in attention lapses, including media multitasking, increase the likelihood of forgetting. This trend of forgetfulness includes both the inability to remember technical items and behavioral forgetting. In summary, multitasking by consuming media such as looking at your phone or watching a video, results in a higher chance of forgetting information both in the working and long-term memory.

"If employees try to complete multiple tasks at the same time, they can't focus on all the little details, resulting in a lack of quality and double work."

Multitasking impairs your ability to remember information

Switching from one task to another makes remembering essential information about the tasks challenging. For example, if researchers asked students to do a small amount of web research while following a lecture, they might find that the students who did web research got lower scores on a questionnaire about the contents of the lecture. This is likely because they couldn't focus on the details of the lecture when they were also trying to absorb the information from their research.

Your brain needs time to get into a flow state, which is when productivity is optimized. It takes an average of 15 minutes of complete focus on a task to get into a flow state. It is the optimal time to absorb new information, which can help with recall later.

How to improve your team's focus and productivity

There are many ways you can help improve your team's focus and, ultimately, productivity. Implementing these methods takes consistent effort, time, and evaluation. Multitasking is bound to happen to some extent, but finding ways to encourage focus can help minimize it. Some ways to promote focus in the workplace include the following:

  • Ensure your team has enough time off to rest and recover: Adequate sleep is essential for productivity. A lack of sleep can cause brain fog and an inability to focus, resulting in increased multitasking.
  • Minimize unnecessary distractions: Removing non-essential distractions can help your team focus on the task at hand rather than other things. For example, you may move busy safety posters from workstations to the break room or where your team can see them as they walk in.
  • Keep work areas clean: A busy area makes for a busy mind that is easily distracted. Resetting the workspace before the shift and at the end of the day can reduce clutter and distractions.

What multitasking means for you and your hiring process

Multitasking not only delays project completion but also lowers the quality of the finished product. While avoiding multitasking is not always possible, limiting task juggling can increase employees' productivity and help them get things done faster. Limiting multitasking when evaluating candidates can also help speed up the hiring process.

Have conversations with potential candidates to learn what they mean when they say they are a pro multitasker. Do they have the focus to complete tasks well and in a timely manner? Ensure you have the information you need to make an informed decision and determine whether they fit the role and the company well.

In short, multitasking on little chores is inevitable, as it has become a large part of day-to-day life. Knowing when to focus on tasks can help enhance productivity, which can positively affect morale and revenue.

Related reading: tips for enhancing employee productivity

If you want better insight into employee productivity, incorporating employee monitoring technologies can help you identify trends and find ways to boost efficiency.

Knowing how to improve your onboarding process can enhance your team's efficiency.

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