Why multi-tasking is making you worse at your job

Catherine Neilan
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Too few hours in the day, too many emails to reply to and too much to get done means multitasking is a fact of working life - but new research means we could be making significantly more mistakes when we try to do more than one thing at once.

Office workers will make up to 50 per cent more bad decisions and errors when trying to do several tasks at the same time, according to new research.

Steelcase claims pressure for workers to multitask has led to "poorer performance, productivity and stress, due to workers feeling unable to deal effectively with their workload".

Beatriz Arantes, psychologist and senior researcher at Steelcase said: “Everybody recognises that feeling of paralysis when the in tray is overflowing and e-mails and are coming in thick and fast. However, trying to deal with several problems at the same time is not an effective working strategy, leading to slower completion, increased error, and a dissatisfying feeling of being behind.”

She believes the following common mistakes are increasing stress, lowering productivity and actually making us worse at our jobs.

Common workplace mistakes...

  • I am more productive when I multitask.
  • I can concentrate better when I sit.
  • Drawing is only for creative types.
  • My brain is easily distracted and cannot change.
  • If I work more hours, I will get more done.
  • Four hours sleep a night is enough.

Arantes added "It is a clear case of the tortoise and the hare. By helping businesses to understand these common mistakes and have a clearer understanding of how to work in a mindful way, workers will be able to work more effectively, and will be able to dedicate the degree of attention that each task deserves. Working well means working with our brain. "