Why do some people prefer to go to the office every morning when the company also encourages remote working? Don’t they hate commuting as much as the rest of us?
There are two main explanations for this behavior.
First, there is the social aspect. When you work from home, it gets a bit lonely and it’s easy to feel left out. Second, it’s the myth of multi-tasking – which, incidentally, is our main topic in this article.
Why, even though highly praised in the corporate world, multi-tasking is a myth. Even more, it’s a myth that harms productivity and encourages laziness and procrastination.
Office Space vs. Working from Home
In a well-organized office, it is more difficult to get distracted. Of course, you may have to deal with Dave or Susan who constantly comes over to disrupt your flow, but this is a situation that can be handled.
Otherwise, the office space is well organized for work and productivity. You’re inspired by coworkers and you know that even if you’re a bit of track, the thought of your a supervisor being there (even if they’re not in your line of sight), keeps you on track. Everyone is focused and you know exactly when the work starts and stops.
At home things are different. There is no one to supervise your actions, no one to give you ‘the look’ if you spend too much time on social media, and no one to inspire you either. Instead, there are a ton of distractions. From family and friends to the TV running in the background or the music in your headphones.
Everything can take away from your productivity and the quality of your work. But it’s not necessarily that you can’t focus when the environment is comfy and relaxed. The problem stems from the idea that you can have your cake and eat it too (aka, multi-tasking).
Solution: Whether you’re at home or in the office, you must stay focused and work on one task at a time. Also, make sure you work with a company that cares not only about your daily work output but provides quality HR communications aiming at improving the overall wellbeing and company culture.
Create a Predictable Schedule
When you start project management training, you learn about the importance of routines. People like to know how their day is going to be as it allows them to organize time and allocate the appropriate resources.
That’s why specialists encourage ending the workday with a to-do list for the following day. It’s a nice way of acknowledging progress and organizing thoughts moving forward. It’s also a way of continuing the routine since you will know where to start in the morning.
But, to stay productive, we also need to include distractions in our routine. Yes, you read that right. To be able to focus on one task, we must create time for distractions as well.
Let’s say you sit down, at your desk, open the laptop, and start writing a report. You write the title and a few phrases but suddenly remember you forgot to book tickets for this weekend’s event. To make sure you don’t forget again, you open a new tab in your browser and book the tickets. While doing so, a new email catches your eye and you reply to it. Next, your phone pings a reminder for another activity, and your productivity for the day is ruined.
To avoid this slippery slope, it’s important to understand that, trying to do lots of things at the same time doesn’t work. It also leaves you depleted of energy, tired, and without any sense of accomplishment.
Solution: Schedule distraction breaks in your daily routine, and keep a distraction pad nearby (to write every thought that could be a distraction). This way, you can focus on the task at hand and do everything else during the break. When this is over, you can return to work fully focused again.
Multi-tasking is Brain Damaging
If we consider the fact that our brain is focused on keeping us alive, battling various health threats, regulating systems, and dealing with the eventual existential crisis, then yes, we can multi-task.
However, when it comes to the specific part of our brain that keeps us focused and productive, multi-tasking is not real. In fact, when we do several tasks at the same time, the brain does many back and forth jumps which are not pro-productivity.
A study at the University of Sussex showed that multi-taskers may end up with lower gray matter density in specific regions of the brain. In time, this can lead to cognition and social-emotional well-being problems.
Still, if you’re a serial multi-tasker, you can still take steps to correct your behaviors and improve brain function. So, if you want a sharp brain that’s capable of functioning to its full strength, it’s best to avoid multi-tasking and practice focus on one thing.
Solution: Create a strong daily routine that encourages a one-task focus approach. Also, use meditation techniques, sports, and other methods to keep distractions under control.
Multi-tasking was invented as a method to cope with busy work schedules, but it turned out to be the exact opposite. People who try to do more without implementing a routine and caring for their mental health end up wasting time and focus.
So, make sure you understand your limits and always place your well-being before work and obligations.