Beware of this cancer eating away at your team’s productivity

It’s ironic that many people are trying to work in a way that makes them more productive, and yet those very actions are actually reducing productivity.

This is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) energy drains and therefore productivity drains that we are now seeing. And it’s even more common among high performing teams because people actually think it’s making them more productive.

So what is it?

Enter – “Continuous Partial Attention” (CPA). I’ve also heard it called “Digital Presenteeism”. It’s where we are “kind of” focusing on about 3 things at once. You know where you are kind of on a virtual team meeting, and kind of checking your emails at the same time and kind of keeping an eye on notifications that come through on your phone at the same time.

Why does it happen?

It’s productive right?! Um no. Neuroscience shows us that this is burning through a bucket load of cognitive energy, all while not being very productive at anything as all of these 3 things that you are trying to work on at the same time are now each taking 3 times longer to do.

No wonder people feel tired. Stop blaming video calls for your fatigue – it’s really more like CPA fatigue. Take out CPA fatigue and zoom gets way easier.

Oh and draining your cognitive energy unnecessarily can also drain your mental health too.

So that’s a triple whammy of decreasing energy, productivity and mental health.

It’s also often common when an organisation has an almost overdeveloped collaborative culture. This results in too many people passively attending meetings under the disguise of making everyone feeling included.

So as leaders, what can we do to reduce digital presenteeism?

There are many issues at play here and there are many ways to use some neuroscience to help you fix this, but here are a few easy things to get you started…

1. If anyone is passively listening in a meeting, why are they there?

Check that the people in the meeting should be there at all, and whether they need to be there for the whole time or would it be more appropriate for them to attend for a shorter period.

2. Reduce the meeting time and have a clear and focused agenda

Be realistic about how much time is needed – 20 minutes? 40 minutes? Don’t just roll with the natural meeting lengths that Outlook provides. Get creative.

Agendas should be specific as to outcomes, not just a list of topics to have a chin-wag about.

3. More pre- and post-meeting work

Preparation is key – do more work giving info to others before the meeting, and stating what’s expected from them in terms of input during the meeting.

Avoid the coffee cup saying “This meeting could have been email”.

4. Define your rules of online engagement – your hybrid team charter

There are hundreds of things that should be included in your hybrid rules of engagement. Just a few include dress code, cameras on or off, and can you answer the door when the courier rings with an eagerly awaited package of online shopping.

Finally when you have a properly developed hybrid team charter, digital presenteeism should be significantly reduced, but if you still see people exhibiting signs of CPA, it should absolutely be in your team charter to call out that behaviour – what you ignore you accept – so call it out.

We have developed a great package of specific workshops and team coaching, using neuroscience, to develop your hybrid team charter to optimise your team’s cognitive energy. So why not contact us to find out more about whether this package might be appropriate for you and your team.