Consider your typical workday routine. Are you deliberately concentrating on one task, free from interruptions, or do you find yourself shifting between crucial tasks, emails, chats, and sips of coffee? For many individuals, the latter scenario is more common, and it directly mirrors the trend of shortening attention spans.
Researchers are actively studying how attention spans are shrinking. Gloria Mark, author of Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity, found that the average person would spend two and a half minutes looking at a screen in 2003. Within the last five years, this has shrunk down to 47 seconds.
These shortened attention spans will likely have a significant impact on the modern workplace. They will change how we get work done and which environments humans thrive in. As a leader, you can stay on top of these trends to best support your team while enabling them to be productive and efficient.
My predictions for the future of work
Numerous changes accompany this trend of shrinking attention spans, along with certain challenges. Let’s explore their impact on the workplace in both the short and medium term.
Shorter attention spans could kill the open floor plan
Open floor plans were originally launched to encourage collaboration and communication. Instead of walking from one office to the next, an employee could just look up and have a conversation across the room. However, these floor plans have been highly criticized in media and in psychological studies.
Employees don’t feel safe sharing their thoughts, they feel overly exposed, and they get easily distracted. For team members with shorter attention spans, this layout can become a nightmare. Any side conversation or movement takes their focus away from work.
Individuals without chronic attention issues could probably concentrate quite effectively when given a task in a silent, unoccupied room. However, their performance would likely decline if they attempted the same task in an environment with people conversing and music playing, according to Margaret Sibley, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science.
Short attention spans alone won’t kill the open floor plan. However, they do support the case for creating private spaces for employees to focus on meaningful work. Bottom line: productivity will decrease if distractions increase.
Leaders should build meetings differently
On average, employees spend 37 percent of their time in meetings. What’s more, 28 percent of managers believe meetings are a waste of time. Meetings themselves aren’t the problem, however. The issue lies in how they are run.
Bloated meetings last more than an hour, come with bulky agendas, and involve people who don’t necessarily need to be there. This type of meetings is terribly unproductive for your team as a whole, especially when only 5 or 10 minutes are actually relevant to each person’s needs.
This is also an ineffective use of time for people with short attention spans. In light of this, companies might focus on having shorter meetings with fewer people. Instead of scheduling long discussions with half the team, one could simply focus on what truly matters.
Attendees can meet to resolve a single issue or address a particular task. In my experience, this approach reduces the chance they forget what was discussed and saves time. Furthermore, the discussions become more actionable while catering to the reality of employees’ attention abilities in today’s world.
Task management will become even more important
The need for effective task management has become more crucial than ever, especially considering the diminishing attention spans of individuals. With constant access to information and an influx of digital distractions, people often find it challenging to sustain focus on a single task for extended periods.
Improved task management offers compelling benefits for both individuals and teams. Firstly, it enhances productivity by helping individuals prioritize tasks, set clear goals, and allocate time efficiently. As attention spans decrease, the ability to organize and streamline tasks becomes essential to maintain high performance.
Moreover, effective task management contributes to better stress management. When individuals can efficiently organize their workload and navigate through various responsibilities, it reduces the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed. This, in turn, positively impacts overall well-being and job satisfaction.
For teams, collaborative task management fosters better communication and coordination. As attention spans dwindle, the ability to seamlessly share updates, deadlines, and progress on tasks becomes a cornerstone for successful teamwork. This not only enhances overall efficiency but also creates a more cohesive and motivated work environment.
Managers will begin to see attention spans as a soft skill
Every year, LinkedIn publishes the most in-demand soft skills that companies need from candidates. These skills, like clear communication and leadership, are incredibly hard to teach. Similarly, as attention spans continue to shrink, managers might start to look for candidates who can focus on single tasks for long periods of time.
Growing your attention span takes time. It requires you to remove distractions and focus on one thing, whether that means reading an entire chapter in a book or completing a project report without checking Instagram halfway through.
Most companies don’t have the skills or the time to teach employees how to stay focused. While they can remove some distractions, employees need to use their own skills to get work done.
It might take some time, but in the next decade, you could see good attention span cropping up as a top soft skill that employers want.
Usage of the right communication tool will be imperative
The modern workplace is designed to distract employees. Endless emails and chats pull team members away from meaningful work. Constant notifications can make even the most focused employees lose their flow and enter into a spiral of multitasking and time wasting. Shorter attention spans, influenced by the constant barrage of information and digital stimuli, make concise and effective communication a critical aspect of individual and team success.
Improved team communication directly benefits individuals by providing clearer and more digestible information. With attention spans at a premium, messages need to be succinct, relevant, and easily understandable. By promoting such communication practices, individuals can absorb information more efficiently, reducing the risk of misinterpretation or missed details.
For the team as a whole, enhanced communication is paramount for maintaining cohesion and productivity. Efficient communication tools and strategies enable swift sharing of information, updates, and collaborative efforts, ensuring that everyone is on the same page despite shorter attention spans. This not only accelerates decision-making processes but also minimizes the risk of misunderstandings and delays.
Moreover, effective team communication contributes to a positive work culture. In an environment where attention is scarce, fostering an atmosphere of open and transparent communication helps build trust and camaraderie among team members. This, in turn, positively influences morale, job satisfaction, and overall team dynamics.
In the face of shrinking attention spans and overwhelming distractions, using an advanced communication and collaboration platform can make all the difference. With Hubgets for example, employees will strike the optimal balance between instant communication and dedicated focus on work. Furthermore, it not only addresses the challenges of staying focused but also cultivates a more organized, stress-resilient, and collaborative team dynamic. Ultimately, this will translate into a more productive and happier workplace.
Investing in such an effective communications platform is an essential step towards navigating the modern work landscape successfully.
Short attention spans will impact the future workplace
As attention spans continue to decline, distractions will become even harder to overcome. And we all know it—you can’t change society. However, as a leader, you can take steps to build an effective environment for your employees to get work done. Shorter meetings, better task management, and fostering more efficient communication can all help your team members focus on the tasks at hand.
Employing tools and strategies that facilitate concise, clear, and collaborative communication not only addresses the challenges posed by shorter attention spans but also fortifies the foundation for individual and team success in a fast-paced and dynamic work environment.