Friday, March 1

Not only meetings kill productivity: notifications eat up half of our day


Work meetings, especially those held by video calls, have become the number one enemy of productivity during the pandemic. Many workers have perceived in these two years that their number has increased considerably at the same rate as their usefulness has decreased, and several studies have revealed that by rationalizing their use, workers yield more.

But these professional meetings are not the only obstacles in the productivity path that have come from the hand of the pandemic. A study of Asana’s project management software has just revealed that the menial tasks many digital workers have to deal with, most notably viewing and responding to notifications, are another big enemy of job performance.

The numbers. Asana’s research reveals, among other things, that knowledge workers spend 58% of their day on work details, which is roughly 23 of the 40 hours in a typical workweek. These tasks include attending to job notifications, searching for information, switching between different applications, managing changing priorities, or updating the status of a job.

On the other hand, the time they dedicate to the important tasks of their work barely accounts for 33% of their entire working day, that is, just over 13 hours a week, while the rest of the hours, 9% of the total, They dedicate them to strategic work: thinking and designing action plans to achieve the objectives set.

To conduct this research, Asana surveyed 10,624 knowledge workers around the world.

The main distractions. The study points out that workers are bombarded every day with approximately 32 emails, and that their attention is divided between various digital tools and the constant change between one and the other: “The details of work are a deeply rooted part of companies modern and still remain the biggest obstacle to productivity. Too many workers find themselves sucked into a world full of small, repetitive tasks that add up to a huge workload.”

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Thus, the researchers say that with so many open tools and notifications to attend to and classify (emails, meeting reminders, work updates in Asana itself or in Slack, etc.) it is difficult to focus on the real work.

forced to answer. In addition, more than half of the workers feel compelled to respond more or less quickly to these notifications, which causes them to constantly interrupt their tasks instead of finishing them and then proceed to review everything that they have pending. Likewise, a third of those surveyed confess to feeling overwhelmed by the constant influx of alerts.

In this sense, 48% of employees think that the number of notifications could be optimized and limited if fewer meetings were organized that were more efficient and productive (because an important part of the alerts come from calls and reminders of these meetings), and 45% of them think that having clearly defined responsibilities would have the same effect. “When each task has a person in charge, a context and a clearly established deadline, the work is done faster and with less back and forth”, collects the study.

Turning off the camera during work video calls is a bad idea.  At least that's what your boss thinks

Around the meetings. Although meetings are not the main focus of this productivity research, the study also mentions them as one of the reasons for the enormous proliferation of menial tasks that digital workers have to deal with. Thus, the document indicates that employees “lose an average of almost three hours a week in unnecessary meetings”, and even more time with the call or reminder notifications associated with them.

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Inefficient and low quality. Another recent study, in this case from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), also returns to meetings to point out that they not only reduce productivity because there are too many of them, but also because they are of low quality.

The researchers of this work define low-quality meetings as those in which there are two people with a similar role within the team or the company, in which one of those summoned has another meeting at the same time and has to cut both to not miss any, and where people are doing other tasks while attending so that work doesn’t pile up too much.

Image | Maxim Ilyahov

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