The rise of remote work has made corporate leaders paranoid, thinking they need to monitor their employees’ every digital move to maintain productivity. But even though people often zero in on Facebook, TikTok, or Netflix as potential sources of employee distraction, in reality, we are constantly distracted in the ways we work today. The author offers four strategies to help managers identify the cause of what distracts their employees: 1) Open a dialogue about the distractions; 2) Schedule-sync of your employees; 3) Don’t hold meetings without an agenda; and 4) Set an example.
These are not secret companies that spy on their employees.
A new one New York Times The article states that eight of the 10 largest companies in America survey their employees using tracking software. According to The Washington Postthe global demand for employee monitoring tools increased by 65% from 2019 to 2022.
The rise of remote work makes corporate leaders paranoid, thinking they need to monitor their employees’ every digital move.
Employee productivity software often measures vanity metrics, such as how much emails sent to employees, virtual meetings they attendand how much time they spend typing on their computer keyboards. It doesn’t track tasks away from the computer – doesn’t take into account time spent thinking, reading or writing paper, for example – or measure achievements and outcomes. Not even the leaders of productivity software approve this use case for their apps.
“Measuring productivity based on surface-level activity such as ‘messages sent’ gives us a very limited view of a person’s contributions to their organization,” said Brian Elliott, Slack senior vice president. The Washington Post. “Not only is it arbitrary, it’s often counterproductive.”
When employees know that their performance is measured by productivity software rules, they become motivated to prioritize emails and messages over their primary work. It continues to be a nightmare “response cycle,” as consultant-turned-professor Leslie Perlow writes in her book Sleep with Your Smartphone. This is what happens when employees adjust to work “needs – adapting the technology they use, changing their daily schedules, the way they work, even the way they live and interact.” -with their families and friends – to be able to meet more needs of their time.”
While managers may not have a say in whether their company uses productivity software, they can check to see if their management style is sending a similar message. Ask yourself:
- Do you expect near-instant responses to emails?
- Do you ask for regular status updates or send “just wanted to make sure you saw my last email” emails?
- Are you planning to check-in your schedule without considering the needs of your employees?
- Do you plan “brainstorming sessions” without an agenda?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, chances are you are distracting your employees instead of encouraging their productivity. These four strategies will help you change your ways and create a distraction-free workplace.
Open a dialogue about distractions.
A big problem with distraction at work is because we can’t talk about the problem of distraction at work. Asking employees for feedback on the most important distractions at work won’t work if they fear retaliation for sharing their thoughts.
To build a culture where employees do their best work, managers must develop what psychologists call “psychological safety,” or the sense of security that comes from knowing there is no penalty for raising legitimate concerns. Only when people feel safe to discuss their problems at work will you be able to find solutions to fix them. Chances are, if your workplace doesn’t talk about disruption, there are all kinds of other skeletons in the closet that you can’t talk about.
Sync your employees’ schedules.
Many managers have little idea how their employees spend their time. Then, when people take longer than expected to complete tasks and projects, you wonder if employees lack the ability or motivation to do their jobs well.
But this is probably not the case. Most likely, employees are distracted by constant interruptions, pointless meetings, and an endless stream of emails (some of which you may have started).
Schedule syncing helps you gain better insight into how people spend their time, which can be achieved in a number of ways.
One option is to ask employees to share a timeboxed calendar what they plan to do and when – for example, if they want to respond to emails and messages, do focused work, or be available for calls and meetings. This gives you to see how they plan their day so you can avoid interruptions in their focused work or missing time or re-propose if necessary. You can also share your calendar so employees know when they can – or can’t – interrupt you.
Another schedule sync tactic is to have your team designate specific distraction-free times each day —no messages, no calls, no emails, no meetings, and no quick in-person check-ins. For anyone.
Using schedule sync tactics can help you gain better insight into how employees spend their time without micromanaging them.
Don’t hold meetings without an agenda.
Think about how many meetings you attended last week. Now ask yourself how many of those meetings waste time and probably an email. Next, remember how many meetings you have attended with an agenda distributed by the organizer. I think it’s too little.
Agendas was invented for a reason, and even though it’s a practice followed by high school student council groups, people somehow forget it when they get to the corporate world.
Often, people schedule a meeting to avoid trying to solve a problem on their own. Collaboration can be a powerful problem-solving tool, but people shouldn’t use meetings as a distraction from hard thinking.
Requiring an agenda keeps everyone on track and cuts down on unnecessary meetings by adding a little more effort on the part of the organizer before calling one.
Set an example.
Company culture, like water, flows downstream. People look to their managers to know what is expected of them. You can’t expect your staff to work without interruption if you’re constantly looking at your phone in the middle of meetings or sending emails in the middle of the night.
So, take your time focused work yourself Let people know when you’re there, and don’t interrupt others during their focused work or downtime. The most critical step in building an immovable workplace is an immovable boss.
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While leaders may suspect that the source of employee distraction is Facebook, TikTok, or Netflix, in reality, it’s more likely how we work. The strategies above – addressing the problem of distraction at work, adopting schedule sync, cutting out too many agenda-free meetings, and modeling what it means to be uninterrupted – can help you improve employee well-being and productivity by taking root. causing distraction at work.