Corporate wellness insights

Is Multitasking a Healthy Workplace Behavior?

Posted by Leah Evert on 06.16.2017

Once a proud accomplishment, employers are taking note about the toll multitasking plays on an employee’s attention. With the ability to work on multiple communication channels and toggle between websites, social media platforms, and apps, it’s tough to stay focused on one topic at a time. But, with a nation with a declining attention span, is it still a desired skill to handle many tasks at once?

Recently, many of our Program Managers have worked with their clients on educational campaigns to help employees improve their productivity at work. Employees have the ability to be consumed with information and communications each day– both personal and work-related. Typically, they keep their email inbox open all day, and their phone by their side, reacting to notifications as they pour in. However, if an employee needs to finish a large project or hone in on some creativity, is that hyper-availability actually counterproductive?

It turns out that the jury is out about the benefits of multitasking. Many people have the cognitive ability to do two tasks at the same time, as long as they the tasks aren’t fully taxing. Think: shopping online while listening to music. However, multitasking can be actually detrimental to performance if an employee is trying to do two projects that require deep thought and analysis.

This advice seems obvious – don’t multitask on something important – but, in reality, it seems like most tasks, however menial, will see improvement with dedicated attention. In fact, you’re more likely to miss a key detail or make a routine mistake when you aren’t providing your task with 100% attention. In order to hone your attention to get the best out of your work, try focusing on these key tips.

  1. Keep your phone away from arm’s reach when working on projects, and check it only reactively. Unless you’re waiting for an important phone call or text, keep the alerts off.
  2. Take two to three chunks of time out each day to compose and respond to email. Then, close out of the program for the remainder of the day.
  3. Mid-project, take breaks for mindfulness – take 10 seconds of deep breaths or, have a thoughtful conversation with a co-worker instead of checking your phone or email.

Want to create a campaign around mindfulness and healthy behaviors at work? Our Program Managers are here to help. Drop us a line to get started.

Leah is a Senior Director of Business Development at WCS and has over 10 years of experience in employee health and wellness strategy. She is also a Registered Dietitian and Certified Exercise Physiologist.

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