Article: Mastering focus and flow in the era of digital distractions

HR Technology

Mastering focus and flow in the era of digital distractions

Companies need to support employees to navigate the information overload and collaboration crisis that is hampering remote work.
Mastering focus and flow in the era of digital distractions

The move toward hybrid work has been one of the biggest workplace shifts in recent decades. Even as the era of remote work unlocked unprecedented flexibility for employees, it hasn’t made the work experience better. Consider, for example, these data points from The Singapore Anatomy of Work Index 2022:

  • 83 % of Singapore’s workers experience burnout or imposter syndrome at least once in the past year. 
  • 1 out of 4 workers have experienced burnout 4+ times in the past year. 
  • 77 percent of Gen Z have experienced burnout at least once in the past year.
  • 60% multitask more in virtual meetings than a year ago. 

“There's always been a gap between the effort and how people work and the impact that that work delivers. But in recent years, we’ve seen this gap grow,” said Andrew Baisley, Head of Southeast Asia at Asana, speaking on “Mastering focus & flow in the era of Digital Distractions” at the People Matters TechHR’22 event.

The crisis of collaboration

71% of HR leaders are concerned about employee collaboration today, much more than before the pandemic.  And technology tools alone aren’t changing the course alone.

At a time when employees are overwhelmed with information and struggling with digital fatigue, companies cannot just engage in business-as-usual. Companies are already facing a number of issues including: chasing stakeholders and approval, unclear owners, time-wasting feedback, and information lost in silos.

“I think we’ve all experienced people chasing information updates,” Andrew said. “There’s information that’s lost in translation, and sometimes we find out that two teams are working on similar updates on two different deadlines,” etc., All of which leads to a number of issues. The quality of work suffers, morale and retention fall, and people that are left are less likely to pick up the slack. It ends up as a vicious cycle. 

So, how do we overcome this? And how can we take this complex web of work and turn it into something that gives clarity to the work that we do?

The opportunity

“Over the course of the year, we can save hundreds of hours by improving simple work processes and making smarter use of technology,” Andrew noted. Speaking of the steps taken in his own company, he noted:

  • Permit employees to turn off notifications 
  • Use calendar blocks for focused work
  • Combine your apps and tools using integrations
  • Use a work management tool to reduce unnecessary emails/ video calls
  • Create clear guidelines for using technology tools

Asana’s research showed that by following the above steps, over 300 hours per person per year could be saved. 

“Work management apps can help you keep all your work in one place with clarity over who’s doing what and by when.” He said. Regarding work management apps, Andrew said he had never received an email from anyone within Asana. And that the company only used email for external communication.

Research from IDC noted that “Collaborative applications are now widespread but not always used effectively. The business value of collaboration grows when the elements of work and team communication are tied to outcomes.”

Here are some of the steps companies can take:

  • Provide context to your team – That means having all the information, files and documents in a single accessible location.
  • Provide clarity – who is doing what, by when? – Everyone should have information on deadlines and responsibilities.
  • Reduce the use of legacy tools like email – Emails and other legacy tools contribute to building information silos.
  • Reject unnecessary meetings 
  • Embrace asynchronous work – Make it easier to work at different times, so employees can have focused time rather than collaborating live. 

“As leaders, we have the opportunity to change workplace habits, and everyone needs clarity of their work, responsibilities and deadlines.” Andrew noted. Ensuring that people have a renewed sense of purpose begins by helping them fine their focus and flow. 

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Topics: HR Technology, Talent Management, #TechHRSG

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