Why We Are Wasting Worker Potential in the Modern Workplace

Modern collaboration tools are full of valuable features, but they also keep workers from ever focusing on one task or achieving a state of deep work.

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By Ariel Shapira

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Not a day passes without constant notifications intruding on your attention. The fact is, the modern workplace has become dependent on these notifications and disturbances. Since a lot of work is collaborative, the tasks depend on people actually responding promptly to questions asked.

The culprits behind these intrusions are "productivity software," such as Zoom or Slack. These excellent collaboration tools are full of features, bells, whistles, and almost anything you can think of that will make electronic cooperative work easier. But they also keep workers from ever focusing on one task or achieving a state of deep work.

Related: How to Lead a Multi-Generational Workforce in the New Normal

First and foremost, let's accept the reality of the situation. These tools make our lives easier and are here to stay. So the best way to get the most out of knowledge workers is to give them the tools and techniques to manage and navigate the electronic collaborative environment. Give them the time and space to work seamlessly on essential tasks, and help them thrive despite using these tools.

But embracing this intrusive reality means we also must accept that workers require a new competence to navigate this collaborative work environment. The need for this competence also explains why certain people thrive, and others don't, even if they have all the technical knowledge needed to perform their duties.

Businesses must incorporate this knowledge into their recruitment practices to find people who can do the work and workers who can manage the current environment. This is no easy feat. The phenomenon of having a substantial portion of the workforce distributed is new, and HR departments are still mainly relying on tactics of the previous century.

Companies like MVP Match have seized on this and match tech talent working remotely with companies looking to hire experienced talent fast. Its hiring marketplace leverages CTOs and domain experts with experience building digital products and leading tech teams to vet freelance and in-house talent before recommending them to companies. By stepping out of the traditional HR-based approach, MVP match enables companies to scale up and down on demand effectively.

The market isn't expected to get back on its feet any time soon. So the future of work will undoubtedly consist of permanent, core teams augmented by freelance workers to provide an agile talent supply tailored for each project.

The key is for businesses to find a way to embrace this new form of flexible and distributed work and to get the best out of their knowledge workers. To do this, businesses must have an effective talent-management strategy, incorporating collaboration tools and the right metrics to measure performance, retention, and skills.

Furthermore, investing in the development and welfare of employees is key to improving morale, retaining key personnel and ultimately boosting the company's profitability.

Related: 10 Strategies for Hiring and Retaining New Employees

Knowledge workers need the freedom to perform their tasks in their way. This means having the right balance between autonomy and oversight. With this, it can be easier for knowledge workers to remain productive in the long run.

Here is where the productivity tools we mentioned earlier become essential. Many organizations overuse them, especially for oversight, and throw the balance out of whack. When working in an office, it's easy to know when someone has walked off to a quiet area to focus and not be disturbed, but that dynamic doesn't exist at a distance.

Many productivity solutions employed today to make our life easier become hindrances in remote environments. Pinging someone to check in on them or setting up a Zoom call just to chat is more interrupting than asking your coworkers, "Has anyone seen David today?" and getting a mumbled response that he went off to sit by himself in the conference room. And the consequences of this are often underestimated.

Related: The Future of Work: 4 Ways Companies Can Evolve to Usher in the Future of the Workplace

It's not easy to know the solutions since there have yet to be any examples of an organization that "nailed it." But one common tip is to have dedicated time blocked off for specific tasks — you can't be interrupted during that time. Other suggestions are to have more rigorous procedures in handing over assignments and making the implementation of the actual work more autonomous and independent instead of collaborative, thus trusting in the individual worker.

In the end, it's up to each company to create an environment that helps their knowledge workers excel and do their best work. What's needed at a higher level is that management and human resource literature keeps up with the trends and starts teaching successful approaches immediately to the entire business community.

Ariel Shapira

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor


Ariel Shapira is a father, entrepreneur, writer and speaker.

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