People Performance

Is context switching affecting your team’s productivity?

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“You can’t do your best work when your attention is scattered across 12 open apps, 34 ongoing conversations, and a to-do list a mile long (…). Make your focus your competitive advantage.”  

Jory Mackay, Editor at Rescue Time

Leaping between different tasks, tools, and activities can be a huge barrier to team productivity. 

Today’s employees (whether they’re working from home or at the office!) often find themselves switching between different tools, platforms, and activities in order to perform their day-to-day work.

Jumping between unrelated tasks (known as context switching) can have drastic implications for team productivity, causing unnecessary stress, overwhelm, and creating an unfocused environment for teamwork.

So, what can you do about it? 

Context switching is all about…context!

Addressing what context switching is and where it becomes problematic is crucial if you want to help your team members become more productive and make better decisions with their time.

While some scenarios may be relatively harmless, context switching with important, high-priority tasks can often make a critical difference in your team output.

“Understanding the hidden costs of multitasking may help people to choose strategies that boost their efficiency – above all, by avoiding multitasking, especially with complex tasks.” 

American Psychological Association

According to the American Psychological Association, prioritising which tasks are multi-tasking ‘appropriate’ and which require absolute dedication and focus will go a long way to helping individual team members manage their schedule and focus on needle-moving work.

Producing “Deep work” plays a crucial role in building high-performing companies…

“If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive—no matter how skilled or talented you are.” 

Cal Newport

For growing companies, the ability to produce at a higher level can make all the difference between sustainable growth and spiralling success.

Creating the right environment, structures, and processes to help your employees to produce great work is absolutely vital.

4 Tips to design a workplace environment that supports team productivity:

  1. Prioritise productivity at an organisational and individual level

While teaching team members to manage their time and prioritise tasks is important, this must be reinforced by your company’s approach, top-down.

If team members feel pressured to respond to emails within minutes or don’t feel trusted by their managers and peers, they may be more likely to spend unnecessary time in tasks that don’t add value or even adopt behaviours that prioritise volume over the quality of work produced.

It’s up to your people managers and company leaders to make it clear that productivity does not equate to ‘busy-ness’ and to value employees based on the quality of their contributions!

  1. Create a culture of ‘deep work’, where employees are encouraged to get into a flow state

Too often, managers pressure team members to be available and responsive, sometimes even creating distractions that take them away from their work!

Creating a culture of deep work means carving out space for your employees to do their best work, and giving them the right tools for the job.

That could mean: encouraging team members to map out their schedules with 2-3 hour slots where they are unavailable (and working on important tasks!), or giving them access to meeting rooms where they won’t be interrupted by their colleagues!

Above all: ensure that your team members feel fully enabled and supported, so they can make the right decisions around how and when they work without worrying about how their peers and managers will respond.

  1. Be strategic about which platforms you use

Being strategic about which tools you use can go a long way to creating a more productive experience for team members.

Carefully consider which platforms are essential before recommending them to your team, and remember that sometimes less is more!

At Exelero, we are firm believers that performing more tasks in one place can help avoid unnecessary distraction, so you can keep your focus on what matters.

  1. Encourage team members to prioritise what matters

When your team is feeling overwhelmed and ‘reactive’ it can be hard for them to create their most impactful work. We suggest spending more time prioritising and planning!

For example, teaching your team how to use the Eisenhower Matrix (pictured below) can be a helpful tool in getting them thinking about which tasks to focus on first.

Ready to drive your team to the next level?

Get in touch to find out how Exelero can help your team members deliver their most exceptional work. Our HR Suite manages team performance and internal communications all the way to hiring and onboarding, giving one place to manage all your people!

Article references:

RescueTime.com: https://blog.rescuetime.com/context-switching/ 

American Psychological Association

Cal Newport, Author of ‘Deep Work. Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World’

Written on January 21, 2021

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