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So you’ve developed a Future of Work (FoW) strategy that covers all the bases: A range of factors such as trends in business practices and workplace transformation. But as solid as your current plan may be, you’ve probably forgotten one element of work that requires more than just a written plan to combat it: attention.
Technology is one of the major players in the concept of FoW, as it is the future. But when it starts to interfere with the success and results of what is being produced, we have to question whether we will ever find a perfect balance. If we are going to do it, how?
Is attention spanning the problem?
Over the past few years, talk of shrinking attention spans has taken over the headlines. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing insights that point to a cognitive overload rather than a shortened attention span. In a USA Today piece, Crystal Burwell, director of outpatient services for Newport Healthcare Atlanta, described it as our brains becoming “short-circuited from being inundated with information.”
So the increasing attachment to their devices and gadgets everyone has experienced only adds to the mental overload. As Burwell went on to say, “The external stimuli and the nature of the environment play an important role in attention span and building emotional resilience to combat COVID fatigue.”
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To contextualize in a real work scenario, a University of California Irvine study estimated that it takes a person 23 minutes to return to a deep work flow after a simple workplace distraction. It has become clear that it is not about attention or hyperfocusing, but about how we fight against the digital environment we surround ourselves with.
Do remote workplaces play a role?
Even nearly three years after the start of the telecommuting boom that accompanied COVID-19, many employers remain skeptical of the dynamics. With countless tools digitizing communication, collaboration, management and other elements of a physical workplace, remote work should be easily accepted. But the one element all companies struggle to measure, whether in an office or remotely, is focus.
In research by The Economist Intelligence Unit analyzing the macroeconomic costs of lost focus in knowledge work, it was found that “28% of time in knowledge work is lost to distraction annually.” And to no one’s surprise, 70% of participants reported checking email at least once an hour and a total of more than one hour per day. This “exchange tax” causes the total time diverted to increase in light of the many additional distractions individuals face in remote workplaces.
The reality is that whether a company adopts a hybrid/remote structure or still operates strictly in the office, the devices that cause distractions are all around us, and they’re not going away anytime soon. The cost of this lost time ends up hurting the company’s pocket.
Artificial intelligence (AI) can be a solution to loss of focus
Think of it as AI vs AI. In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of apps for mental well-being. These systems temporarily help with stress relief, such as setting positive mentalities. But they don’t provide real-time intervention and protection against the AI targeting us to win our attention. AI can learn about an individual based on activity, and that information can also be used positively to develop personalized plans to help regain focus and leave behind distractions.
Yair Nativ is the founder and CEO of Time25.AI, who outsmart digital pollution to help employees reach flow and achieve peak performance in the face of technology addiction.
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