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Category: Loyalty · 5 min read

Why Being “Always On” may not Always be a Good Thing

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on February 7, 2019

author profile photo

on February 7, 2019

Woman working in an office at night

With cell phones, apps, and email, we’re always connected to our work, even when we’re driving, in a meeting, or at home. There’s no question that our digital age has us always “on.”  

But is that a good thing? 

According to two new studies, being always available and always collaborating or communicating can actually hinder productivity and decision-making.1,2 Even though your back office staff and financial professionals may appreciate your quick response and availability to talk after normal work hours, it may be more beneficial to wait. Here’s why: 

 

Problem: Frequent Collaboration and Communication Hinders Problem-Solving (and Efficiency) 

Collaborating and communicating with your staff and downline is a necessary part of work and a part of everyday life. It’s expected. But collaborating and communicating too frequently can distract us from accomplishing our more important tasks, and can hinder us from solving the bigger problem.  

For example: too much collaboration can look like back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings, where you’re trying to brainstorm and solve several different problems. While these are good things to try and solve, too many meetings and conversations can be a bad thing. It doesn’t give you a chance to problem solve on your own and think things through properly. Plus, it may hinder your efficiency and productivity. You’ve just spent your whole day in meetings, and now there’s no time to get anything else done, find solutions, or do additional research. 

Then there’s the constant communication. After your full day of meetings and constant collaboration, you head home. But the work day doesn’t stop. Your phone keeps buzzing. It’s your staff or your financial professionals. You reply back, and since you’re already checking your email, you go through your unread messages and start replying to those, too. On one hand, it’s nice that you are able to respond after hours, but soon, you’ve spent most of the night emailing back and forth about work things. In other words, you’re always on (at least until you close your eyes).  

The same thing happens when we try to multi-task and are constantly distracted by our phones. Like I just mentioned, even when you’re “off the clock”, your phone is a distraction, and it can cause you to multi-task, consume your time, and not allow you to rest. I’ve found that when you truly take a break, put down your phone, and leave the office, the solutions to your problems often hit you. That cognitive break can clear your head and help you identify a creative solution that you hadn’t thought of before. But multi-tasking and your phone can prevent you from that and may have a negative impact on your problem-solving ability, which can also make you less efficient.  

This can be a dangerous way to live. Being always on can lead to burnout and fatigue.  

Collaborating and communicating too frequently can distract us from accomplishing our more important tasks, and can hinder us from solving the bigger problem.

Solution 1: Don’t always be on 

So, what should be done? How do we stop being always on and control our communication? Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Set boundaries. Don’t always be available. There should be a specific start time and end time to your work day. Set your schedule, and then adhere to it.  
  • Block time on your calendar. Set time to be by yourself. Whether it’s a daily time block, or once a week, set aside a period of time for you to focus and get stuff done without interruptions.  
  • Don’t reply to staff or your downline outside of office hours. Don’t do it. I know it’s tempting, but they can wait until the morning.  

Taking time to restore yourself and not always be on can be a smart business solution. In fact, a study conducted by several professors found that taking short breaks from collaboration and communication improves collective intelligence and problem-solving.2 Set boundaries and limit your communication, and your effectiveness can rise. 

 

Solution 2: Choose Collaboration Wisely 

For business leaders, there can be an impulse to have back-office staff collaborate on everything, but collaboration is only good to a point. A lot of times it can reduce efficiency and productivity, which might hurt your business.  

Sometimes you need input on a decision, other times you can make the decision by yourself. Knowing when to collaborate and when to work individually is the key. So, be choosy about which projects are team projects and which are individual, and make sure to watch for signs of collaboration burnout. Protect your employees (and yourself) from the fatigue of constant collaboration, so they stay productive and on task.  

Collaboration and communication are both essential and good things. We need them to do our work well. But, they should be used wisely. Limit each of them, so you aren’t over-exerting yourself or your staff. Almost everything is good in moderation, and the same goes for collaboration and communication.  

 

Sources: 

1. James, Geoffrey. “’Collaboration’ Creates Mediocrity, Not Excellence, According to Science.” Inc. Apr. 13, 2017. https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/collaboration-creates-mediocrity-not-excellence-according-to-science.html  

2. Bernstein, Ethan, Jesse Shore, and David Lazer. “How intermittent breaks in interaction improve collective intelligence.” PNAS. Aug. 28, 2018. https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/115/35/8734.full.pdf  

 

For Financial Professional use only, not for use with the general public. #19-0050-013120

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Written By

Mark Williams

President and CEO

Mark Williams is the President/CEO of Brokers International. Over his more than 25 years of financial services experience, Mark has been both a producing independent agent in the field and a home office leader consulting to agencies and field marketing organizations. Currently, Mark is focused on the future of the insurance industry, from the disruptions of InsurTech and robo-advisors to the changing demographics and needs of customers. He also is an avid mentor, helping financial professionals navigate the industry.

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