MULTITASKING & A New Study Says Great Leaders Should Promote (Not Prevent) Multitasking Among Employees–Here’s Why

by Rohini Venkatraman, Inc. Magazine, 1/26/18.

Up until now, science (and experience) has told us that multitasking is either impossible or inefficient. It might seem, then, that the most productive teams are ones where employees are focused and engaged on one task. But according to new research published by marketing professors from Wharton and Yale last fall, this may not be the case. The experiments showed that whether or not people were actually multitasking, they performed better at tasks when they perceivedthemselves to be multitasking. Not only did they perform better, but they were also more engaged. So whether or not multitasking is beneficial to our performance, the illusion of multitasking is.

Put another way, you actually want your employees to think they’re multitasking. Here are four ways to promote the perception of multitasking among employees.

1. Clearly distinguish between multitasking and distractions.

Multitasking is different from being distracted. Multitasking involves a series of tasks each with a specific goal in mind. Responding to a text message might be a task with a specific goal, but it becomes a distraction when it takes away from another goal-oriented task. If an employee is texting a friend during a team meeting, he is distracted, not multitasking. The first step is to help your employees minimize the need for distraction. Give them space to tend to their personal needs like responding to emails and texts throughout the day so that they aren’t pulled in multiple directions during collaborative team time.

2. Highlight components of multitasking within each project.

According to the Wharton and Yale professors who conducted the multitasking experiment, helping employees see the multitasking components in any given activity increases their performance.

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