Is there an App for that?
Updated: Nov 21, 2021
A pursuit for finding balance in a stream of distractions and notifications.
Working remote has become the new normal for many. While working remote, you have also learned to work in an environment filled with distractions. I am reminded every time my mail arrives, or a package is dropped off as I hear my dog bark, or when he is ready for his walk. ‘Alexa’ notifications chime throughout the day, the laundry machine sings as the wash is done, my Apple watch reminding me it is time to stand, not to mention those consistent popup notifications from the various apps and e-mails. I have always convinced myself I was a pro at multitasking, but I have begun to question if I am losing time & focus when I am switching between tasks.
Working from home creates massive demands on employee attention, which can make it challenge to focus on tasks that require concentration. Technology that was meant to help can also hinder concentration. Employees are confronted daily by an overload of notifications, alerts, invitations for Zoom, e-mails, texts, messages from Microsoft Teams and more— which were all designed to boost teamwork, collaboration and hang on to culture.
It has come a time, where organizations must be clear about what they value most: output or attention, or can there be a balance of the two? If you work for an organization that values output, then employees should be encouraged to block time on their calendars for focused work time. Meetings should be arranged outside of the most productive work hours and should be encouraged to propose new times or cancel meetings that are not necessary. However, if you work for an organization which values attention, then a priority for employees should be prioritizing constant replies, activities and leveraging the various apps and communication tools available.
The spread of apps and platforms were designed to boost collaboration, but they can lead employees to lose time simply searching for work-related information or switching between the various “team centric” Apps. For example, I find myself switching between Zoom, Teams, Go To Meeting, Ring Central and many other platforms to communicate with my clients. Although I do find value in connecting virtually, and seeing facial expressions, have we lost the ability to have a simple phone call?
So in a world, where remote work doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, how can we continue to be productive and not lose sight of collaboration and focus?
Here are five suggestions organizations can do to support remote employees stay focused and collaborate with team members:
1. Audit your Apps. Complete an analysis of the platforms, apps, and systems your organization is currently using. Make note of the uses for each one to see if there is overlap or unnecessary features that could be eliminated.
2. Evaluate & Consolidate Apps. Know the difference between support and micromanagement. Overwhelming your team with apps and tools is not a good way to support them, it can have the opposite effect. Have an open discussion about the number of tools you have in place, ask your team which tools are the most helpful, and remove those that don't bring any real value. If possible, seek one app that gives everyone access to the same information, eliminates silos so employees can connect, and create opportunities for collaboration.
3. Turn off notifications. I am a big proppant of calendar blocks I refer to as “work time.” This is the time I am able to concentrate on a task or project and minimize distractions. By blocking off your calendar, you are creating time for uninterrupted work, this also signals to your colleagues you may not be available to meet or respond to an e-mail. When your calendar is open those are times you are available for collaboration.
4. Leverage video communication. Sending communication (like e-mail or text) enables the recipients to access it whenever they choose. Recorded meetings and on-demand video are also effective options when real-time communication isn't necessary. I recently started working with a new client, who works in a different time zone. To prevent this from creating any work challenges, my client introduced me to Loom. Loom is a great way to send e-mail video messages that provides clear and concise communication, and as a bonus, it allows you to share your screen during the video message to provide a visual aid.
5. Lead with Trust. Yes, it is that simple. If you are a manager and you find yourself constantly pinging an employee and not hearing back, you might assume the employee is slacking off, when likely that is not the case. By leading with trust, you can empower your employee to manage their time and work to meet the demands of the organization. I encourage you to consider using a collaboration platform where an employee can alert team members that you are immersed in a task, this can be accomplished by sharing calendars, and blocking out work time, or rather if you use instant messaging, update your status.
Technology that connects employees provides a key outlet to maintain some of what was lost in the remote-work shift, but it is key to find the right balance between concentration and collaboration.
Share what Apps are working for you, and just as important which ones you are ready to say buh-bye too. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org