I normally do not get into these types of discussions in my blog, but a lot of controversy has been running around about multitasking. So, does it cost a company when employees multitask, or make them more productive? No simple answer.
It seems PR Clients and major corporations are pushing their employees to multitask due to the reduction in staff. But are these decisions going to actually hurt a company in the long run? I think it will, and it seems to already be happening. When we multitask, many of us think it is doing a few tasks at a time, when actually we are doing a portion of a task. So nothing gets completely accomplished, and if it does, it is over a longer period of time.
When I first began working we did several tasks during the day. Was that multitasking? No. Are what young people doing today multitasking? No. The reason, our brains are not capable of handling more than one function at the exact same time. That’s a fact, a scientific fact. When people say they are multitasking, I prefer to use a term “Parallel Tasking”. That makes sense. This means you do one task, such as printing out a status report, and while that is printing, you complete an excel sheet. Another example, you begin to write or type a letter, then decide to have a drink of coffee or water that is on your desk, while drinking, you answer a phone call. So are these multitasks? They are “Parallel Tasks”. Remember, the brain is wired to focus on one thing at a time. Just like a circus juggler who looks like he is tossing objects in the air and then does something else (in the same spot) is using his reflexes that he taught to keep a motion going while he re-directs his attention to another task.
There are a lot of studies on the subject, even one called The Myths of Multitasking.
So I ask again, is multitasking helping or hurting your company? Before you answer that, check your email and finish typing that report, and oh, change the song on your iPod and get another cup of coffee.