You open your email to find 427 new messages. While scrolling through subject lines to determine the “most urgent” messages, a text message chimes on your iPhone. Moments later, your landline rings and while on the phone, you get three IMs from co-workers with urgent questions. Meanwhile, you have two reports and a presentation to finish before end of day.
That’s the greatest hurdle today’s workers face: We are always accessible to colleagues, clients and everyone in between, via multiple channels, 24/7. As a result, distractions abound, attention is divided and productivity and work quality suffer.
A recent Harris Interactive poll found that one-third of workers ages 25 to 39 reported feeling burned out by their jobs. We can define burnout as a state of constant emotional, mental and physical exhaustion that leads to detachment (and in some cases, an inability to function). Additionally, doctors are seeing more patients with stress-related illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and insomnia (source: American Management Association, “Slow Down to Speed Up,” June 25, 2014).
While multitasking is a must-have skill for employees, most workers feel disconnected, trying to manage multiple projects and multiple deadlines with team members scattered across the globe. Fortunately, there are a few steps both employees and enterprises can take to survive and thrive in today’s real-time, multi-tasking workplace – and purposeful collaboration is at the core of each step.
Workers, first and foremost, can lower their stress levels with some strategic planning:
- Prioritize projects and tasks. It’s impossible to reply to every message sent via every medium instantly. Make a list of which items need to be completed in the next hour versus the next 24 hours.
- Are there questions you can answer via a five-minute phone call rather than typing a lengthy response note or a huge IM conversation? Consider the best medium for each discussion or request.
- Reconsider how your work teams are collaborating. Are endless status meetings consuming valuable work and “think” time? What other options are there for efficiently sharing real-time status updates and discussions?
Meanwhile, organizations should focus on creating an environment that empowers employees and boosts productivity and innovation. Many enterprises’ hierarchical “command and control” structures actually dampen productivity and limit innovation (as employees are not fully empowered or engaged). When individuals are authorized to think, decide and execute on their own projects, organizations are far more nimble.
- Make democracy a top value. The democratic workplace celebrates participation, making traditional hierarchies obsolete. Active employee participation drives company innovation.
- Value employee time and productivity by only conducting forward-looking meetings and eliminating repetitive reporting-style status meetings.
- Recognize that transparency, context and a 360-degree view of projects/initiatives is key not just to a company’s success, but its very survival. Invest in work collaboration and project management software that allows team members to get context on the work they’re doing in real time, no matter where they are.
Collaborative work management – across employees and at all levels of the enterprise – is the backbone of the modern workplace. It is integral to exchanging ideas, completing meaningful work, achieving employee empowerment and more. It also enables accountability and transparency, resulting in participation, alignment and, most importantly, innovation.
In short, it fends off communication overload and helps you – and your organization – be more effective.
And isn’t that better than triaging 427 emails?