Achieving focus throughout the workday is not a new challenge, but distractions today look very different than they used to. Open office and hallway chatter have been replaced by interruptions from collaboration tools, notifications, alerts and subconscious habits. Distractions on digital devices are so easy to access that when individuals want something more interesting, less challenging, or altogether different, it’s readily available.

The Productivity Lab wanted to understand:

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    How do collaboration tools contribute to fatigue and distractions in the virtual workplace?

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    How can employees achieve deep work throughout the workday despite so much technological noise?

Key findings include:

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Focus sessions

The average work consists of many brief focus sessions, as opposed to longer periods of deep work.

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Focus disruptions

Collaboration tools are the number one source of focus disruptions.

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Collaboration

Employees spend substantial time in collaboration and multi-tasking activities throughout the day.

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Finding 8/10

The average workday consists of many brief focus sessions, as opposed to longer periods of deep work

While 60-minutes of uninterrupted focus is popularly considered the threshold for “deep work”, only 3% of employees have focus sessions that last longer than 50-minutes. The reality is, over 70% of employees experience focus sessions in 0-20 minute increments, with the overage lasting 40-minutes.

Recognizing that 60 minute sessions may be unrealistic in practice and incompatible with day-to-day distractions, set attainable goals for incremental improvements to preserve and extend focus sessions throughout the day.

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Finding 9/10

Collaboration tools are the number one source of focus disruptions

The research shows that collaboration applications were the greatest cause of focus session disruptions, accounting for 21% of distractions. On average, these tools distract an employee 70 times per day with alerts to engage in meetings, respond in messages or reply to emails.

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Finding 10/10

Employees spend substantial time in collaboration and multi-tasking activities throughout the day

Since the shift to remote and hybrid work, much of the discussion around fatigue has centered on collaboration tools (e.g., chat and messaging, meeting applications) and multi-tasking activities (activities that reflect back and forth behavior across multiple tasks). The Productivity Lab discovered that employees spend one-third of their day (33%) across these two activity types; at times, multi-tasking while in collaboration tools.

Leaders must shift their focus toward collaboration strategies to better address the potential negative consequences brought about by collaboration-related fatigue.

Other resources found similar results in their research on Workplace Focus & Distractions

  • On average, companies are using seven different tools for messaging, collaboration, file sharing, and meeting management. — Constellation
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  • “Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.” — Cal Newport

Glossary

Focus

Working time in which an employee is engaged and working on a single task without multitasking (interruptions or attention shifts) and collaboration activities.

Focus Session

The average time employees operate without multitasking (interruptions or attention shifts) and collaboration activities.

Collaboration

Productive time that occurs through two-way communication using digital collaboration tools like meeting software, chat and messaging. Collaboration Time, by definition, is not focused, even though it is critical in every company.

Productive Time

Breakdown includes business-related focused, collaboration, and multi-tasking activities.

Multi-tasking

Multitasking activity performed within productive applications; consists of genreal administrative business task while an attention shift event is happening

References

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