Multitasking and Its Negative Effect on Performance

What is multitasking? Multitasking involves working on two or more tasks simultaneously. It usually occurs when one has a lot of things to do on their schedule, and one needs to complete these tasks in a short period of time. While not bad on paper (and sometimes necessary if you are a busy adult), it can have a negative impact on your performance at work, especially if you are working remotely. Multitasking usually arises from employees’ overloaded work schedules due to poor team project management. 

In the post-pandemic world, remote work has become more and more prevalent, along with the tendency for remote workers to multitask more and more. Studies have shown that this tendency has a lot of potentially negative consequences on the personal well-being and health of employees. Spreading your cognitive abilities thin by trying to get multiple things done at the same time degrades the quality of your output, regardless of how well-intentioned it may be. We are going to break down all the different ways why multitasking is a bad idea.

How Multitasking Negatively Affects You

A recent study has shown that multitasking, especially when connected to media consumption and technology, reduces the grey matter in your brain. Things like motivation and cognitive control were the most negatively impacted. People who are chronic media multitaskers are also shown to have poor working memory and long-term memory as well. 

Another con of multitasking is that it impairs your judgment on being able to choose which task should be prioritized throughout the day. You lose perspective of the bigger picture, which can affect your decision-making process on multiple projects and lead to losing motivation, knowing that you wasted your day on trivial tasks. 

Multitasking on the go can also be a major safety hazard as well. For example, imagine that you are crossing the street while also checking your work email on the phone. It could lead to a terrible accident that can seriously hurt you. It is crucial to create the necessary time and space to address an issue with your full attention, rather than half-heartedly doing it while moving about in uncomfortable places.

Another detrimental effect is how it impacts the quality of your work output, along with those of the people around you at your workplace. Texting during a work meeting can lead to you not fully absorbing the necessary information to do your job properly, and it also sets a precedent for others to do so if they notice. It has an almost osmotic effect on the work environment.

How to Avoid The Negative Effects Of Multitasking

So now that we’ve covered some of the ways that multitasking can be detrimental to your overall work output, we’re now going to go over some methods to help avoid these pitfalls and establish work ethic strategies that are both productive and also beneficial to your health. 

Use a Workstation

First and foremost, if you are working remotely, it’s crucial to establish an isolated and quiet space in your home to use as your workstation. Ambient or distracting noise stimulates the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. This hormone reduces brain function and can distract you more frequently. By isolating yourself from distractions, you can maintain remote working productivity.

Prioritize a Realistic Workload

Something more specific you can do as a leader is to encourage your team supervisors/managers not to overwork their teams. A heavy workload can force many employees to multitask, which can seriously compromise the quality of their work. Prioritize a realistic workload analysis, for instance a swot analysis. They can always hire temps to do database work during busy seasons.

Step Away From Your Desk During Break Time

Whether onsite or remotely, encourage your employees to step away from their desks during break time. It’s important that they rest their body and mind instead of doing media multitasking like checking their phone or emails.

Develop Your Team’s Management Skills

Something else to consider is nurturing and developing your employees’ time management skills. A lot of individuals try to compensate for their lack of time management skills by multitasking. Introducing them to classes and courses that allow them to gain these time management skills will lead to them being healthier and more productive workers. 

Working Offline If Possible

Another great strategy for remote workers is to consider unplugging the ethernet/wifi and working offline, if possible. This will prevent them from distraction, when they should focus on the task at hand. This allows them to completely isolate themselves from any online distractions and dedicate all their attention to their work, thus ensuring high-quality working remote performance. 

Time Blocking Techniques

An effective method to be more productive is time blocking. It’s designed to help you complete a task you’ve been putting off for a while. Set a time in your schedule or calendar for a specific task, and do not stop by anything else until you finish it. This will help you to work on a more efficient pace, while also ensuring the quality of your output.

The next point ties back to the previously mentioned suggestion of encouraging managers to now overwork their employees. When going about creating your to-do list for the day, ensure that it’s realistic and manageable. It can really knock the wind out of your sails if you are presented with an impossible amount of things you have to accomplish by the end of the day. 

General Work Improvement Strategies

Besides reducing the negative effects of multitasking, there are some other good tips and strategies that help improve your employees’ overall work performance and productivity.

Interpersonal Communication

When it comes to remote work, something that really needs your focus is interpersonal communication. A majority of communication for remote workers is done via email, chat, or other instant messaging apps. Therefore, it’s a good idea to schedule online meetings or calls on a regular basis.  They’re good for getting a solid grasp of how your team is handling the workload. For addressing any potential issues they have to fix as well. Sometimes it’s difficult to communicate in written form what exactly your employee needs to correct or fix in their work. Being able to tell them directly via online meetings makes this process much easier and more straightforward.

Productive Group Meetings

Speaking of meetings, productive group meetings are also invaluable. It’s much harder to impart useful information and communicate properly when it’s with a large group of people. It’s always important to consider what the objective of the group meeting is and if it is necessary. Otherwise, you run the risk of simply wasting everyone’s time, which can be very demotivating for your team. Make sure you invite only the people that actually need to hear this information.

While ideating or researching, it can help to keep all inputs organized and available for later reference. Sometimes, jumping between tasks can stem from poor or confusing brainstorming sessions, resulting in not knowing what to tackle first. This is true for yourself as it could be for an entire team. There are multiple decision-making frameworks that you can use in different contexts. For that reason, make sure you find the right fit for your situation.

Have Time Tracking Tools Available

Having a time tracking or management tool is also very useful to ensure everything is operating smoothly. Knowing how much time tasks can take will give you an idea of whether you can meet your deadlines. It ensures you work smartly and avoids unnecessary multitasking. 

Flexible Work Schedule

A flexible work schedule is a great net gain for employees since they can personalize their daily work schedule. Some individuals’ minds don’t work optimally during the morning, for instance. So the ability to work later on during the day may result in more high-quality work output. Also, make sure to get feedback on deadlines. By monitoring your team’s projects and how much time each task takes, you can figure out what to prioritize.

Pro-tip: In order to avoid multitasking, you can always rely on online tools. Use TrackingTime’s project management time tracker software to streamline daily work. Visualize every task you or your team is working on, in real-time, without switching between apps, all in one place. You’ll be able to easily share tasks and set due dates: create, prioritize and complete tasks and projects. Keep track of your project due dates and meet your client’s deadlines.

Why Multitasking Can Be Detrimental to Your Productivity?

Hopefully, you’ve now gotten to grasp how multitasking can be detrimental to the workplace enviroment’s productivity and mental health. Due to toxic work practices from the past, this need to multitask is unfortunately very prevalent all around the world. It usually always leads to poorer work quality and detrimen in the long run.

 On the bright side, these attitudes are slowly changing, and the strategies and solutions in this article are being used more. Whether you are a career blogger working remotely or a software engineer that works on the go, the risk of your productivity being hampered by multitasking is even more prevalent as a remote worker. So do keep in mind all the things we’ve mentioned in this article. 

About the Author:

Velislava Georgieva is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Inbound Blogging, specializing in Content Marketing and Outreach Strategies. Besides her passion for digital marketing, she likes yoga, fitness, and hiking. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.


What does Multitasking Mean?

Multitasking involves working on two or more tasks simultaneously. It usually occurs when one has a lot of things to do on their schedule, and one needs to complete these tasks in a short period of time.

How to Avoid Multitasking?

If you are working remotely, it’s crucial to establish an isolated and quiet space in your home to use as your workstation. A heavy workload can force many employees to multitask, which can seriously compromise the quality of their work. A realistic workload should always be prioritized.