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Is workplace concentration being held hostage by collaboration?

Is workplace concentration being held hostage by collaboration?

We check our smartphones, on average, every 12 minutes during waking hours, with 71% of us never turning our phone off and 40% checking it within five minutes of waking[1].

As a generation, we are chronically distracted – and it’s seeping into our working lives.

Even if your office insists on phones in bags or lockers, technology insists on diverting our focus. Computers, plasma screens, telephones – the commotion is endless.

The digital age isn’t the only part of modern life that vies for our attention, however. The latest workplace environment trends – ironically, often spurred by tearing us away from our screens and into a more social atmosphere – can throw our brains into disarray.

Many businesses have moved to open office strategies in the hope of increasing engagement, collaboration and wellbeing.

However, it doesn’t suit everybody.

Some workers – even if otherwise friendly with their colleagues – work better alone. Introverts may lose their voice in the hustle and bustle, while employees with stressful roles may find that their tension becomes contagious.

Even if they exist in the same department, you simply can’t treat all employees in the same way and, ultimately, workplaces that put disproportionate emphasis on collaboration are likely to experience a negative effect on individual employee focus.

However, it’s not all bad news for collaborative workspaces.

Collaborative and open-plan offices have many distinct benefits; it’s all about balance.

After all, they offer a great potential for businesses to scale and adapt their setup, as well as making it easy to network and ease tension between departments.

Similarly, collaborative workspaces actively promote teamwork and a communal atmosphere, which can greatly improve perceptions of the company’s ethos – for both existing and prospective employees.

There’s just one problem – amongst all the teamwork, inclusion and general chatter, what happens to your workforce’s ability to concentrate?

Where collaboration is considered key, focus is often woefully neglected.

It’s not a war against fun or refusing to be forward-thinking; just the simple fact that without the ability to concentrate, staff may struggle to get the nitty-gritty of their work done. After all, not every task can be entrenched in teamwork.

You don’t need to make a U-turn on collaboration – far from it – but you should add other working styles into the mix, considering the demands and sensitivities of differing personalities, roles and workloads.

A successful business environment is reliant on equal support of four working modes: collaboration, focus, learning and socialisation. It isn’t easy to focus in the break-out room, but you also can’t socialise in a private office; there needs to be a conscious attempt to bring each element into the environment.

With concentration requiring so much personal effort, even if you’re alone (have you checked Facebook in the last 15 minutes?), the capacity to focus requires significant attention – especially if you’re going to stop it getting swept up in your collaborative efforts.

A workspace that allows for extended periods of uninterrupted focus, as well as the ability to engage in collaborative work, is vital.

If you can create a quiet haven for concentration (such as private booths where anyone can hotdesk), as well as areas where formal and informal collaboration can take place (think open-plan with ample seating), you’ll be well on the way to creating the dynamic environment that our current workforce needs in order to thrive.

With these two modes of working in place, you’ll also make it easy for employees to indulge their craving to learn and develop, in whichever manner suits them – be it private cramming, or a group strategising session.

With these options available, socialisation is also blissfully simple – but not an inescapable distraction when you have a lingering deadline at 5pm (so please come back and offer me those cookies at 5:05, thanks Karen).

Your workspace can provide the antithesis to always-on technology, visual displays, noise and phones – while still enjoying their benefits to your business growth.

With solutions to suit any business type or space, it’s time to seriously consider how you can nurture both concentration and collaboration.

If you have a seed of an idea (or you have no idea where to start), Axis House can help. Get in touch with or team or view our past projects to learn more.

 


[1] https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/features-and-news/decade-of-digital-dependency

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