The ability to conduct business via video calls or messaging platforms was one of the positive outcomes of a pandemic. The use of video calls and messaging platforms has reduced the need to be in the office five-days a week, removed travel time to external meetings and even eliminated the challenges of booking meeting rooms.
Whether you work in an office, work remotely or hybrid, video and messaging platforms have become a normal way to conduct day-to-day business. Teams, Zoom, Whatsapp, Slack, Text and messaging boards like Trello and Asana are here to stay.
While highly effective for communicating within and across locations, messaging platforms can instil a FOMO-style need to feel and be present all the time. So, despite having undeniably revolutionised the workplace for the better, can messaging platforms drain productivity rather than amplify it?
Here, we explore how messaging platforms could be distracting your team, and how you can make messaging platforms work for you and your team rather than you working for them.
Messaging platforms zap creativity and innovation
When it comes to sharing inspiration, concepts and ideas, messaging platforms are great. Yet when workers allow themselves to become dominated by their messages, creativity, innovation, and productivity declines. The immediacy of messaging, combined with the rapid response expected by clients or co-workers, creates a need to always be available.
Every time a Teams or Messages alert pings on-screen, it breaks concentration and workflow, and in roles that require creativity or innovation, this can present some real challenges. Being creative and innovative requires continuous focus and energy and when interruptions are constant, it gets increasingly hard to get in the zone and stay on point.
A new study reported that Teams dampens creativity. When asked to describe unique ways to use a frisbee or bubble wrap using Teams, participants came up with fewer creative ideas than those gathered in the same room. Communication platforms aren’t just distracting for creativity – they can never replace the power of getting together in person.
It takes longer to regain focus after being distracted
We all know the familiar routine; a WhatsApp notification dings from a work group chat then before you know it, you’re checking your Instagram, reading your emails then forgetting what you were doing before you picked up your phone in the first place. Another day goes by, and you’ve not achieved your goals.
Being distracted by messaging platforms often means it’s harder to regain focus afterwards. Important research from the IORG revealed that workers lose about 25% of their workday dealing with a constant stream of data. Not only that, it takes workers approximately 25 minutes to recover from interruptions before returning to their original task in hand.
This results in many valuable working hours lost each week.
Employees end up working longer hours with diminished output
When team members struggle to be focussed during the day as a stream of messages come in from Teams, Slack, Emails, Whatsapp and text, then they can become overwhelmed as their goals, tasks and deadlines start to slip. When they get to 6pm and realise that they haven’t achieved what they set out to achieve, it can be very easy to jump back on to the laptop after a quick dinner.
A study of 10,000 Asian tech remote workers used software to track what website or apps were active on their computers. The study revealed a 30% increase in the hours worked than before the pandemic (including an 18% increase in working outside normal hours) and a 20% dip in productivity.
Employees who are feeling the pressure are less likely to take the time to make a healthy dinner, exercise or take time out for quality time with friends and family – all essential ingredients for a healthy, happy, creative innovative and productive team member. While it may be ok every now and then, if your team members are so distracted each day that their own work is suffering, it may be time to check-in on how best to use your messaging platforms.
Multitasking actually decreases IQ
It’s official. Trying to FaceTime, examine some spreadsheets and reply to Slack alerts all at once is bad for your brain. If not being able to regain focus after being distracted wasn’t bad enough, multitasking negatively impacts your cognitive competency.
A study by The British Institute of Psychiatry reported that when constantly multitasking with messages, texts, emails and work duties, IQ in the moment drops by up to 10 points. That’s the equivalent of losing a whole night’s sleep.
Some of the multitasking men in the study even had their IQ drop by as much as 15 points, leaving them with the average IQ of an 8-year-old child.
How to overcome messaging platform distractions
If you have identified that messaging platforms are causing your team some challenges, it is time to create meaningful change. By adjusting your behaviour to support your teams you can help shift your company’s culture away from being ruled by messaging platforms and communication tools.
Encourage your team to be considerate
Sending text messages, Teams messages or updating online task boards outside of hours is disrespectful to your team. You wouldn’t call them at 11pm at night to talk about work so why message them outside of hours?
While some leaders adopt the attitude that your team can turn off alerts if they don’t want to receive them – they often forget that subordinate team members may fear they won’t be looked upon favourably if they aren’t seen to respond immediately.
Further, some team members keep their alerts on because they are nervous about what they may wake up to the next day and would rather know in real-time to avoid the fear of the unknown.
Consider how Teams and Zoom meetings are used
If you were in the office, you wouldn’t walk up to someone who you can see is clearly focused and on a deadline. So why dial a quick adhoc chat to get something off your chest or to-do list when it may simply be a distraction for the receiver?
Try and set up routine opportunities for discussion so that the team knows they have that time together or with you and can hold their conversations till then - alleviating the need for unplanned, distracting meetings.
When meetings are needed, try and keep them purposeful by asking the team to be punctual and prepared. Sending a pre-read or briefing notes ahead of time can make video calls more meaningful and outcome driven.
It could also be helpful (and much appreciated) if your set aside certain days of the week as “Zoom-free” days.
Hold training, set rules and expectations
When integrating messaging platform or work management systems into your company, clearly communicate your expectations of how you would like them to be used by your team. Make it clear what kinds of messages will need actioning or attending to urgently and what can wait.
Why not set times of day you would like them to check their alerts? This will ease the pressure of them feeling they need to act every time they hear a ping and help them continue their flow of creativity or innovation.
Assess and monitor your own reliance on messaging platforms
Lead by example and do not allow messaging platforms to dominate your own personal work life. Think about how you can adopt a more purposeful approach to using the tech so as not to bother your team unnecessarily.
Think before you hit send and strategically consider when you add tasks to team boards rather than overloading them with work.
What are the benefits of reducing messaging platform distractions in the workplace?
With a holistic approach to reducing as many messaging platform distractions as you can, you can create a winning team. According to research you can expect productivity and performance to increase, creativity and focus to flow without interruption, a more engaged, motivated team, higher quality of work output, fewer extra hours being worked to make up for lost time.
1 Workers lose about 25% of their workday dealing with constant data streams and it takes 25 minutes to recover from interruptions before returning to their original task in hand.
2 Messaging platforms at work can positively affect creativity, which is indirectly influenced through knowledge sharing, though it can also be detrimental to creativity compared to meeting person.
3 When constantly distracted by messages and alerts, employees end up working longer hours, less efficiently with decreased productivity.
4 When multitasking with messages, texts, emails, and work duties, IQ in the moment drops by around 10 points, the equivalent of losing a whole night’s sleep.
5 Help your team minimise messaging platform distractions by training and briefing them on your expectations on how and when to use them, limiting rather than banning personal smartphone use, only holding digital conference meetings occasionally and keeping tabs on your own reliance on messaging platforms.
6 By reducing messaging platform distractions you will improve productivity, performance, creativity and team motivation while decreasing the hours you team will have to work.
If you are open to new opportunities, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.