Whether you work at a startup with kombucha on tap, somewhere super corporate, or have a flex-schedule that allows you to work from home, chances are you’re in pretty constant communication with your boss and colleagues. A decade ago, workplaces might have relied solely on email or (gasp!) IRL interaction, now messaging services like Slack have made nonstop communication the norm. Well, it turns out there is such a thing as too much collaboration.
Researchers at Harvard Business School have found that always being on—AKA always at the ready to respond to some form of communication—makes you less productive; it’s actually better to touch base intermittently throughout the day instead.
How did they come to this conclusion exactly? They set up different three-person groups and gave them a super-complex problem to solve. One group worked completely independently, one worked semi-together, and the third was fully collaborative. You can guess which one had the best results, right? The one that worked semi-together. The takeaway? Collaboration is valuable, but so is having time to yourself to think things out.
While turning off technology for a small chunk of the day may feel counterproductive, this study shows it actually makes you do your job more efficiently.
According to the report, the cycles of alternating between working independently, then coming together for a meeting, and then going back to working alone has been a long-standing way of working, but those cycles are being broken by the constant advancement of technology. “As we replace those sorts of intermittent cycles with always-on technologies, we might be diminishing our capacity to solve problems well,” says associate professor Ethan Bernstein, PhD, who helped lead the study.
The solution: Block out part of your cal to work by yourself—and turn off all the constant messages coming your way. Scary? Sure, but they’ll be there for you when you get back from your solo time. While turning off technology for a small chunk of the day may feel counterproductive, this study shows it actually makes you do your job more efficiently. It allows you the time to truly focus on the task at hand.
Just like virtually everything else in life, it turns out the whole “everything in moderation mentality” applies to collaboration, too. And hey, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Maybe a little time away will actually make you start enjoying your boss’ Slack messages—or, okay, at least make them more tolerable.
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