Multi-tasking increases workers’ error rate by 50 percent

Are you multi-tasking to get more work done? Research suggests this could not be the best way. Image via managers.org.uk
Are you multi-tasking to get more work done? Research suggests this could not be the best way. Image via managers.org.uk

The ‘benefits’of multi-tasking are increasingly becoming a myth in the workplace. According to research, office workers will make more errors and bad decisions the more they strive to complete numerous tasks at once.

Employees are working harder to resolve several matters at once in their day-to-day roles, however, they can make up to 50 percent more errors as they try to do so, according to Steelcase.

The principal reason for the misconception of multitasking is the result of incorrect assumptions about how the brain works, leading to poorer performance, productivity and stress and workers feeling unable to deal effectively with their workload.

Workers are having to juggle with pressures that were unheard of only a few years ago. The constant flow of emails and the multitude of social media messages contribute to workers feeling unable to cope and striving to deal with more tasks in a smaller time period. This has resulted in workers reporting a sense of anxiety, guilt and inability to deal with the work load.

“Stress at work is one of the largest occupational hazards of the 21st century. However businesses can increase employee wellbeing and productivity if they understood how the brain works, helping workers to prioritise the workload, and give each task the attention it needs, rather than engaging in multitasking,” said Beatriz Arantes, psychologist and senior researcher at Steelcase.

“Everybody recognises that feeling of paralysis when the in tray is overflowing and e-mails and are coming in thick and fast. However, trying to deal with several problems at the same time is not an effective working strategy,leading to slower completion, increased error, and a dissatisfying feeling of being behind.”

Some of the most common mistakes we make at work include believing productivity improves when you multitask, working extra hours to get more done, and believing that you can concentrate better when you are sat still.

“It is a clear case of the tortoise and the hare.  By helping businesses to understand these common mistakes and have a clearer understanding of how to work in a mindful way, workers will be able to work more effectively, and will be able to dedicate the degree of attention that each task deserves. Working well means working with our brain,” Arantes added.

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