Why You Should Stop Asking Your Employees to Multitask

When you create your job posting are you asking candidates to be able to multitask? It’s so pervasive in our culture that we believe it’s an essential trait for employees. But what if you learned that multitasking was a myth? Psychology and brain health experts suggest that our minds aren’t meant to focus on more than one task at a time. So when people do say they’re good at multitasking, what they mean is they’re good at prioritizing. Multitasking can negatively affect performance. Here’s why you need to stop asking employees to multi-task and other ways to encourage productivity.

The Traffic Jam

Psychologists call the effects of multitasking a “traffic jam.” The human brain can only focus on one thought at a time. Some people may have many thoughts in quick succession, but that specifically impacts the ability to focus on just one. This traffic jam will cause a bigger mental block than it solves.

More Mistakes

Multitasking has been shown to lead to more mistakes due to the lack of focus on any single task. To move rapidly from one task to another, an employee is unable to keep track of the small but important details, which can create bigger problems. Instead, encouraging your team to focus on one task at a time will allow them to accomplish everything in much less time. Prioritization is much more important than multitasking.

Increased Stress

When a person tries to do too many things at once, overwhelm can set in. That stress can impact more than just the task at hand. It can spill over into the entire job, affect coworkers, and even affect life at home. Stress can also lead to miscommunication and, ultimately, career burnout. If your employees feel as though they are expected to do everything at once, they may stop functioning at a high level.

Decision Making

Multitasking can also affect their ability to make the right decisions. When employees are juggling so many things at once, it can be difficult to see the forest through the trees. They can’t see how each decision has an impact on the whole. You may see them begin to make inaccurate decisions with incomplete information on each contributing task, which will create a snowball effect.

Productivity Hacks

So what can you do to encourage productivity without pushing the multitasking narrative? There are a few options that can increase performance levels, including:

  • Teach time management skills: setting deadlines can help improve individual tasks
  • Enforce Regular breaks: sometimes stepping away from the problem can allow a fresh perspective
  • Shorten meetings: employees see meetings as time that cuts into their work
  • Eliminate distractions: constant interruptions negatively affect performance

Do you want to improve your team’s productivity?

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