The Power (and Drawbacks) of Context Switching

Posted by Asif Rehmani on May 17, 2021

 

Context switching is when we switch our context, our mindset, to doing something else... switching from one activity to the other. There are both positive and negative impacts of context switching and it's good to know which is what.

 

Transcript of the video

 

Employees can get distracted very quickly when their context is switched. Even more so when working from home compared to when they're in the office. I'm going to talk briefly about the concept of context switching. If used properly and intentionally, it can be extremely beneficial but on the other hand it can be extremely destructive to productivity if it's not controlled.

So what is context switching? Context switching is when we switch our context our mindset to doing something else and switching from one activity to the other.

First let me talk about how it can be extremely beneficial if done intentionally. Let's say you're working on an extremely important report that requires deep thought. You have blocked out the time and turn off all notifications and have dove deep into working on the report for one hour straight. Then an alarm goes off and tells you it's time for a break. And that break for about 15 minutes you go for a walk outside or you read a few pages of a fictional book or you play some sport, take a quick nap… whatever it is, you are giving your brain some much needed rest for a few minutes before you get back into working on the report. this is intentional context switching an can be extremely beneficial to your productivity. 

Now let's talk about the flip side of it. While working on the very same important report, a colleague stops by your desk or  sends me a message through Microsoft Teams let's say. Now my context has switched without my intention…  from working on the report to talking to my colleague. Now when I'm done with the conversation and try to get back into the report and into the mindset of what I was working on, it has been said that it could take up to 20 minutes to get into the flow of things. That's a lot of time and if these interruptions are happening all day, it can be very destructive to our time management.

So If we can help our employees minimize unintentional context switching, I truly believe they can be a lot more productive working from wherever they are. Hope this helps.

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