The Sunday Economist: No Time for Multitasking

Video conferencing is tricky. Actually, it would be right to fully concentrate on the conversation. But then all sorts of new things flash up at the same time.

The Sunday Economist: No Time for Multitasking

Video conferencing is tricky. Actually, it would be right to fully concentrate on the conversation. But then all sorts of new things flash up at the same time. The e-mails in the mailbox want to be read, some are best answered right away. The mobile phone is always within reach anyway, so the view falls on it almost automatically in between.

Maja Brankovic Editor in the economy of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, responsible for "The Economist". I'm following

No wonder. There are so many things competing for our attention. Trying to always keep several balls in the air is still not advisable. Because the so-called multitasking simply does not work. The study situation is clear on this issue.

Psychologists Joshua Rubinstein, Jeffrey Evans and David Meyer, for example, conducted experiments to test how multitasking people really are. It is probably the most influential experiment in this field. Young adults had to switch back and forth between different tasks, sometimes solving math problems, sometimes sorting geometric objects according to certain patterns. Each time the study participants had to switch from one task to another, they lost time. Not always a lot, often it was only a few tenths of a second per change. blink.

People cannot afford real multitasking

This only becomes problematic when the lashes accumulate. We are constantly changing. But the researchers say: in multitasking mode, we are up to 40 percent less productive. And: The more often we switch between individual tasks, the more errors creep in. The economic consequences can hardly be overestimated. A study estimates the global cost of multitasking in everyday work at 450 billion dollars a year.

3 months F+ for only 3 €

For the birthday of F+ read all articles on FAZ.NET for only 3 euros a month.

NOW F+ READ

Biology is to blame. People can't really multitask because their brains can't perform two cognitively demanding tasks at the same time. Every time a person interrupts his current activity – because the phone rings, because an email arrives or a colleague asks a question – cognitive effort arises, even when returning to the original task. Efficient concentration gives way to an inefficient start-stop spiral in the brain. Even with the simplest activities at the same time, we no longer succeed in concentrated thinking particularly well. In a 2010 experiment, pedestrians who were talking on the phone while walking were twice as likely to miss a unicycle-riding clown than people without a cell phone on their ear.

In factories, people have been reacting to these findings for a long time. In practically every production hall, it is ensured that operations on the assembly lines are interrupted as rarely as possible in order to start the production of a new or slightly modified product. The change of tasks and the start-up time to bring the plant back to its previous high speed significantly impair productivity.

Data allows a deep look

Only the head workers at the desk care little about it. With the triumphal march of Zoom, teams and Co., the problem in the offices has only worsened. Microsoft provided the proof this summer with a study on its own employees. To get an insight into how often employees fell into multitasking mode during video conferences, the group, in collaboration with researchers from Amazon and University College London, examined the logs of the activities of about 100,000 employees in the United States. The data came from the period between February and May 2020, when Microsoft completely switched its workforce to distance work.

Updated Date: 07 November 2021, 00:01

You need to login to comment.

Please register or login.

RELATED NEWS