Too Much Multi-Tasking: The Overlooked Downside of BYOD
When businesses adopt BYOD policies, employees can work from any location and at any time of day. As a result, many companies think that switching to a BYOD environment will increase worker productivity. However, around-the-clock access to work may not help workers to accomplish more. In fact, the multi-tasking that comes with BYOD may make workers less effective.
Businesses considering BYOD often cite network security as their top concern. With the growing number of attacks targeting mobile devices, particularly Android devices, security is a legitimate worry. Companies should invest in a good Android security solution, tackle mobile device management questions and create a workable BYOD policy. Taking these steps will wrap up the IT side of BYOD. Then,companies should address the human side of the BYOD equation by teaching employees how to work in the “always-on” world.
Multi-Tasking at Work Is a Myth
The human brain, according to numerous studies, cannot effectively process two unrelated tasks at once. This limitation occurs because the brain’s “executive control” function has two distinct phases that can’t function together. The first, called “goal shifting,” involves the act of switching to a new task. The second phase, “rule activation,” requires switching from one set of rules to another. The limitations of executive control are the primary reason that people can’t safely drive and operate a cell phone. Whether they’re talking on a handset, speaking into a headset or trying to send a text, the brain cannot focus on driving and on using the phone at the same time.
Before the brain can switch attention to a new task, it must not only decide to do something new but also access the rules for the new task. In essence, the brain turns off the circuit for the old task and activates a new circuit for the new task. Although the switch takes just tenths of a second, according to the American Psychological Association, a person who constantly tries to multi-task can end up losing about 40 percent of his or her productive time. In addition to wasting time, the person is more likely to make errors while performing work.
How to Work Well in a Distracting Environment
If companies want to realize the potential of BYOD, then they need to help employees understand how to work in a highly distracting environment. Take these steps to reduce multi-tasking in any organization:
- Start better. Project execution improves when the project is well-defined before it’s started. Setting clear goals, offering good design specifications and providing necessary inputs allows people to work without stopping to look for resources or to try to wrap their minds around a project. Overall, because employees complete tasks more efficiently, the team is neither left waiting nor forced to move on and then revisit problems later.
- Prioritize. Poor prioritization keeps people from working on what’s most important. A manager who attempts to multi-task may spend two or three inattentive minutes with employees instead of having an effective 15-minute conversation. Instead, managers should communicate priorities to their teams and then model effective priority setting in front of employees.
- Rethink time management. Encourage employees to work on single projects for longer stretches of time instead of trying to move between small tasks associated with multiple projects. Also, schedule most organizational events, such as meeting times or conference calls, at consistent times. Few emergency meetings and conference calls are actually emergencies.
- Put down the technology now and then. A study of undergraduate students published in the journal Computers and Education found that students, after sitting near one student who both took notes and surfed the Web using a laptop, scored 17 percent lower on a test than students sitting away from the laptop user.The lesson: Companies should create a culture that allows employees to detach from devices when necessary. Few email messages require an immediate answer, and calls can often be returned at the end of the day.
Ineffective network security costs businesses a lot of money. Plus, the multi-tasking encouraged by BYOD costs businesses as much as $450 billion every year. By implementing both strong security policies and training employees to work more effectively, companies can reap BYOD’s potential without succumbing to its downsides.