How the Best Leaders Cut Productivity-Killing Distractions

by | Jun 15, 2020

Collaborative overload means that pClick ‘display images’ to see this image.eople are being left with little time for all the critical work they must complete on their own. According to some studies, the proportion of time that employees in many companies spend in meetings, on the phone, and responding to e-mails hovers at around 80%.

I constantly hear the same story from people working in industry service organisations, where the situation could be even worse.

When you overlay the impact of time squandered on social media (which is expertly designed to distract you), it is no wonder that so many people feel exhausted and overwhelmed at the end of each day.

Recent assessments of how remote work has lifted productivity in organisations are similarly finding that it is because of less meetings, travel and distractions.

We are too easily distracted with ‘shallow’ collaborative activities when we need to quarantine more time to work alone on the complex issues that really matter.

I observe that leaders are often inadvertently enabling this unproductive busyness. For example, CEOs typically have constant travel commitments and their diary is logjammed with meetings.

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review last week, the CEO of global firm VMWare, Pat Gelsinger (who was voted by employees as America’s best boss in 2019), said that the pandemic lockdown had given him a chance to reassess how he, his company and industry operates.

After not being on a plane for over 10 weeks straight for the first time in over 30 years, Gelsinger realised that plenty of his previous travel could have been avoided. He concluded that VMWare and its 30,000 employees will never go back to normal.

Leaders and managers set the ‘unwritten ground rules’ that shape organisational culture. What cues will you be sending in future about what is important, and what is a distraction?

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