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The Concept of Multitasking
In the contemporary era, agitation, commotion and urgency have characterized the manner in which majority of people carry out their daily engagements. As a matter of fact, Rosen (2008) has embraced the term multitasking to describe humans’ efforts to respond to the numerous challenging demands at the same time (p.105).
Initially, multitasking was used for a several years to explain the simultaneous processing capabilities of computers. The term (multitasking) was first used by office employees to depict themselves as ultra-modern, high-performing team members. As it stands now, the term is commonly used to depict human efforts to accomplish numerous tasks at the same time using up-to-date technology (Rosen, 2008, p.105; Ruff, 2002, p.10).
The Negative Impact of Multitasking
Rosen (2008) discusses the negative impacts of multitasking (p.106). She presents findings of some studies that show risks associated with driving while using electronic gadgets. In the business area, concerns have emerged about the prevalence of workplace distractions due to multitasking. According to one study reported by BBC in 2005, employees distracted by phone calls and e-mail alerts experienced remarkable decline in their IQ indices.
In nutshell, multitasking reduces productivity of employees. It has also been estimated that the US economy loses over $600 billion yearly due to multitasking (Rosen, 2008, p.106). Multitasking also compromises the ability of children to learn in a normal way. Learning the art of paying attention to key issues/or objects is one strategy to deal with multitasking (Rosen, 2008, p.109).
Multitasking Culture and Workplace Distraction
A number of studies have been carried out to assess the negative impact of multitasking (i.e. information overload) in business environment. It is worthy to note that employee productivity is directly related to the number of tasks performed simultaneously. As the number of tasks (i.e. information processing) rises, the decision-making ability of an employee decreases.
This may result in confusion and workplace distractions as the ability of an employee to set priorities is severely compromised (Ruff, 2002, p.1). Therefore, the assertion by Rosen (2008) that multitasking culture has led to workplace distractions and declining productivity is valid (p.106).
Multitasking also hampers learning and problem solving skills of employees. For example, employees at Bernholz in Canada were required to enhance their decision-making rate by 1900% following the introduction of computers. As a result, the ability of employees to solve new problems imaginatively declined by 29% in the first hour, 78% in the second hour and kept on decreasing subsequently (Ruff, 2002, p.4).
There is no doubt that multitasking also augments the stress level of employees at workplace. Stress has a negative impact on the health of employees and can cause heart ailment. Ruff (2002) cites the findings of one study which showed that over 24% of employees experience elevated stress as a result of the number of different tasks they are required to handle at their workplaces (p.4).
In the same study, 36% of managers cited information overload at workplace as the main cause of poor health. What’s more, 67% of those managers reported that multitasking had a negative impact on their productivity (Ruff, 2002, p.4).
In a similar research carried out in Singapore with 1,313 junior, middle and senior business managers, 72% reported that they required massive volume of information to be productive in their job. Nonetheless, the participant also stated that extreme multitasking was responsible for the following: 32% reported they were experiencing poor health; 65% were not satisfied with their job due to tension with their co-workers; and 61% stated that personal and social relationships were compromised (Ruff, 2002, p.5).
Other negative impacts of multitasking reported by the participants included: poor concentration at workplace; diminished productivity; and persistent hostility leading to a chronic state of bad temper (Ruff, 2002, p.5).
In spite of the inherent risks outlined above, multitasking is gaining prominence in the business arena at an alarming rate (Puthumana, n.d., par 1). In light of stiff competition in the market, most business organizations have adopted new strategies to maximize productivity using limited resources. As a result, the need to hire and retain workers with multitasking skills (especially generation Y employees) cannot be overemphasized.
Majority of business organization have adopted multitasking as a strategy to augment productivity at workplace and achieve the objectives of the company. Thus, in an attempt to evade retrenchment, cut down on staff hiring and increase productivity at the same time, majority of business organizations are searching for a multi-skilled workforce to achieve organizational goals (Sonnet & Hood, 2008, p.60).
Puthumana, A.K. (n.d.). Multitasking: Giving an edge over others. Retrieved from https://www.deccanherald.com/
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Rosen, C. (2008). The Myth of Multitasking. A Journal of Technology & Society, 105 110.
Ruff, J. (2002). Information Overload: Causes, symptoms and Solutions. Web.
Sonnet, D., & Hood, A. (2008). Generation Y as hospitality employees: Framing a research agenda. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 15, 59-68.