28 June 2022
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What Is Context Switching And How Can You Fight It?

What-is-Context-Switching

How do you start your day at work?

Do you open your email inbox first to answer all the messages received the day before after work hours? 

Then you may switch to Slack to check out unread messages, and finally, hop on Jira to see how many tasks you have on your to-do list before your weekly meeting starts.

Most employees have a similar work routine that starts in the morning and continues throughout their day. You may think that this repetitive set of actions takes only a small portion of productive time, but you are wrong. This practice is recognized as context switching and can eat up most of the employees’ work hours, ruining their productivity in the long run. 

So, what can you do to prevent this grim scenario from happening? Just keep reading.

We’ll offer you some quick and easy solutions that’ll help you shake off the context switching habit and get your productivity rates back on track. 

But, let’s see what context switching is and how it differs from multitasking.

What is Context Switching?

Every time you start hopping from one app to another only to check your messages or the projects you’re working on, you’re context switching.

We all do it, you may say. But if employees tend to do it frequently during the day, they’ll take a large chunk of productive time that they can otherwise dedicate to focused work. Knowing that they’re wasting too much time going from one app or platform to another without delivering visible results can frustrate and overwhelm employees and affect their motivation.



So why do employees continue to context switch?

The simple answer is that too many applications want their attention and they feel the urge to respond immediately to every notification. A survey showed that an employee needs to switch between nine apps a day on average. And that’s a lot of notifications to tackle. 

Juggling between so many apps devised to make work easier is counterproductive because it distracts employees from their creative tasks and slows them down.

Context Switching Vs. Multitasking

Even though these two distractions are similar in many ways there is a difference between context switching and multitasking.

When you multitask, you tend to do multiple things at the same time, like answering emails during a meeting. But when you redirect your attention from one task, you’re working on to start a completely different task, you are context switching. 

Both of these practices are distractions disguised as time savers. Not only that you won’t save time by doing this, but you’ll also need more time to regain the focus needed to go back to “deep work.”

Context Switching in Numbers

If you still think that there’s no harm in answering one email while you’re writing a status report, think again. The University of California in Irvin conducted a study showing that 20 minutes of repetitive interruptions cause employees to feel more stressed and overwhelmed.

And this is really a major issue, knowing that employees are constantly interrupted. 

When it comes to time wasted on context switching, numbers are alarming. According to statistics, 42% of employees spend more time answering emails than a year ago, while 40% of them spend more time on video calls. And, 50% of employees tend to multitask during these meetings. 

These numbers clearly show that context switching is a serious issue that steals your employees’ attention, making them less productive but more overwhelmed by constant interruptions.

Luckily there are numerous simple steps you can take to battle this distraction and help your employees get back on track, increasing their productivity and lowering their anxiety rates.

How to Battle Context Switching

  • Let your employees use do not disturb modes when they want to commit to focused work.
  • Encourage asynchronous communication and cross-team collaboration to reduce the employees’ need for frequent context switching.
  • Start practicing different time management techniques to minimize interruptions and help your employees organize their time in blocks dedicated to creative work on ongoing tasks.
  • Make sure to set top priority tasks and goals. When employees know what their priorities are they would be more engaged in their work, ignoring various distractions.
  • Cut the time spent on meetings. Keep meetings short and relevant, hosting them only when messages can’t be conveyed via email.
Context Switching
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Gaurav Jain
Article by Gaurav Jain
Hey There! My name is Gaurav Jain, a full time affiliate marketer since 2007. The reason for starting eMoneyIndeed.Com blog is to help you Save & Make Money Online. I write about Blogging, Online Marketing, Webhosting, SEO, Affiliate Marketing, Startups, Social Media, Email Marketing and more. Hope you enjoy the posts on eMoneyIndeed.com

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