How multitasking can affect productivity negatively

Employers develop misconception

burn out from multitasking
There are many misconceptions regarding the term multitasking. Multitasking was invented many years ago as human mankind does this concept was taken out of context. Multitasking as we know it today does not resemble what the original founders intended it to be. 

Today multitasking organizations use the term as an excuse to make people do more than one function. The original thinking behind multitasking was to allow people to gain the knowledge and skills that will enable them to do more than one task. This does not mean it must be done at the same time as is the perception today. 

The term multitasking was very quickly exploited by certain organizations who either misunderstood the concept totally or saw the loophole to exploit. It can be said that people were cheated into thinking they are doing the right thing while being exploited. 

During the late 70s up to the 80s multitasking was also used to support negotiations with unions in order to offer education and training to employees. At this stage, it was still a concept that could be very useful. All employees were enabled to function equally in other areas of the organization when required. 

The pros and cons of our misconception

The use of multitasking in today's environment has brought about the following negative connotations to the concept: 
  • Loss of focus on specific tasks 
  • Exploiting of staff
  • Incomplete or failing task analysis within organizations 
  • The employee's ability to specialize and grow in one profession 
  • The loss of productivity as workers are attempting to do several tasks at once 
  • Changing job functions creating higher demand from workers 

If the concept could be applied correctly multitasking can be an asset to your organization. The positive side it brings to your organization has numerous advantages such as: 

  • Increased productivity due to focus on specific tasks 
  • Staff can develop themselves into a specific position with high-level skills 
  • Overall the organization will be more organized in terms of performance levels and staff development 
  • Development of knowledge base of all employees. 

Rectifying past mistakes

As we can see the intent of the original concept was to develop skills and knowledge in other aspects of an employee's work life. This would have created the ability to remain employed even in today's times when employment levels are so high. Employees would keep doing petty tasks included in their job function instead of developing skills in another job function.

We can rectify this misconception by going back to the roots of multitasking and review our job functions. Employ staff for the function you intend to and through time place him in other job functions for short periods of time such as leave replacement or in between recruitment. But don't expect the employee to do both functions at once are we are back at square one.

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