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What researchers have learned about productivity and working from home

I recently watched a webinar produced by a project management platform, Asana. The focus of the webinar was about Overcoming Disruption in a Distributed World and dove into information researchers have learned about productivity and working from home since COVID lockdowns began about a year ago.

Here are three productivity problems that face employees today along with some solutions:


Problem #1: It takes more brain energy to focus on online meetings.

Researchers found that people’s focus in Zoom meetings drastically drops off after 30 minutes. 

What’s the solution? 30 is the new 60 (minutes, not age)! The research team recommends limiting meetings to a half-hour or you will lose interest from the rest of the participants. Only schedule virtual meetings longer than this if you have a REALLY good reason.

Problem #2: Productivity decreases if you do not have a dedicated work environment.

Your brain creates neural networks between what it is seeing and the activity you are doing. For example, your bedroom sends signals to your body to relax. Smelling a fresh cup of coffee could signal that it’s time to start your day. This is why you may notice it takes much more energy for you to focus on work if you are mixing workspaces with relaxation spaces in your home.

What’s the solution? You need to build your neural pathways to reassociate areas in your home with focus/work.

  • Tip 1: Light a focus candle only during working hours
  • Tip 2: Create a dedicated workspace and do not visit it when you are not working
  • Tip 3: Listen to a specific playlist for work and a different playlist/genre when you’re not working

Problem #3: “Multitasking” actually wastes time.

Multitasking is a myth! Instead, researchers call this context-switching and there is a price to be paid every time you “switch contexts” from one application to another. Every time you make a switch (i.e., from Slack, to work, to email, back to work, to a phone call, to work again) you pay a price called switch-cost which can add up to two-three hours of wasted time that is completely lost to you. This also takes your work 40 percent longer to do and increases mistakes by almost 50 percent.

What’s the solution? Utilize a strategy called Focus Sprinting which will help increase productivity by 42 percent. Here’s how you do it:

  • Set an hour block in your calendar
  • Write down what you aim to accomplish
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Focus for 50 minutes using a timer (you work faster when you’re against a timer)
  • Take a brain break

As businesses adjust and reopen, many are finding that having a displaced workforce works for them and their employees. If you find yourself working from home now or in the future, follow the steps above to increase your productivity and feel better about your day.

To watch the full webinar presented by Asana, click here.

To read more about the research presented in this webinar, visit Asana’s blog here.

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