This blog was co-authored by Claudia van der Velden, Emma Stephen, and Tony Crabbe
How often do you end work thinking ‘this was a great, productive and effective day’? Hopefully you have many of those, but perhaps you also recognize the feeling where you end your day thinking, ‘I was busy, but I didn’t do the things I wanted to do’. We feel disappointed, perhaps anxious and yet as tomorrow comes, we remain busy.
This social norm of busyness doesn’t necessarily equal valuable work. And while technology should facilitate our work, often it can feel like a burden, as we grapple to keep on top of our inbox, messages, and calendar. When we are bounce from message to meeting and back again, zipping through those to-dos, managing mails, and switching between documents and devices, we are constantly chipping away at our attention. Keeping on top of all this noise can feel like an end in itself; but it´s exhausting, ineffective and unlikely to feel meaningful.
Technology, in itself, does not lead to productivity. Our digital tools are amazing, but they are not enough. Unless they are harnessed to the power of human attention, digital technology can lead as much to distraction as it can enablement. Or, as Tony Crabbe, business psychologist specialized in attention summarizes it, “Technology x Attention = Productivity”.
So, what makes the difference between a great day and a distracted, draining day? What does it mean to enable attention through technology, and how can we support our people, and ourselves, to move from busyness to digital productivity? These should be central questions for all of us to grapple with if we want to truly unlock the enabling power of technology.
What are we missing in our approach to productivity and the digital workplace? We’ve certainly got the tools, but have we got the right attention and the right habits? Great days, when we feel productive and make an impact on the problems that matter, have three consistent elements: Purpose, People and Progress (the 3Ps).
Purpose: Recent research showed that employees spend only 44% of their day working on their primary job activities and 40% of their working time is responding to internal emails that they admit add no value to their business1. Yet, when we have a sense of purpose, we can see the clear value of our work, we lean in. We engage. In fact, 25% of performance can be attributed to our sense of meaning in our work.
People: According to one study, there has been a 50% increase in collaboration over the last decade, with people spending 85% of their day in collaborative activities2. Consistent studies find one of the greatest drivers of impact, but also motivation, is the quality of collaboration.
Progress: Teresa Amabile’s research3 shows that one of the greatest motivators is a sense of progress on the projects and tasks that really matter to us on a daily basis. Yet, on our busy days, how many of us leave work exhausted but underwhelmed by our progress on what matters.
Our goal is to help you build holistic strategies for your digital workplaces. Strategies that encompass the scenarios that will add value to your organization, its employees, and encourage new ways of working that facilitate the 3Ps. So how can you plan your workplace strategy and a technology adoption approach for the continuously evolving digital workplace in a way that harnesses employee attention and leverages the digital workplace as a change agent to catalyze the forming of new digital cultural norms, adapted to today’s work environment?
The Modern Collaboration Architecture (MOCA) came about to try to solve for this challenge. It offers best practices and guidance to help you develop your digital workplace strategy, understand scenarios that will add value, and provide best practices to support individuals in your organization to harness their attention.
Starting with the purpose we looked at what the specific needs of individuals in the workplace are. What are the common things employees are trying to achieve with technology and what kind of work is the technology designed to facilitate?
When it comes to the people aspect we thought through the different contexts of productivity and attention. We looked from individual work to more collaborative and community-based work. In the MOCA model, the organization plays a facilitation role to enable all individuals, teams, and communities.
Progress is incorporated when we think about the digital cultural norms that we can encourage to facilitate getting work done and the conditions to harness attention. How can we leverage technology and science to learn to facilitate Flow for example, a key factor in employee engagement4 and general well-being5 because it builds this feeling of progress?
Talking about progress, our most collaborative employees are often also the most disengaged3. As teams we rarely discuss our “rules of engagement” that will make the most of people’s time, talents, passions, and attention as we embark on a task. It is time to start.
The intent of the MOCA framework is not to predict ‘THE BEST way to organize your work’, but to act as a guide. As you look at the MOCA, think about the different needs, scenarios, and contexts your employees work in. Does it fit or do you need to adapt based on your organization’s goals? What other tools are end-users using that need to fit in?
Leverage the “MOCA on a page” as a starting point to spark discussions as you consider priority needs and scenarios that will add value to your organization and employees. How you will enable those scenarios based on the evolving technology landscape? And what digital culture norms do you want to encourage as you continue the digital workplace journey? If you are that individual who is overloaded or needs to re-take control of your time, do it and think about how you can leverage technology to facilitate that.
You might find yourself asking why how work gets done, and how we facilitate employees to harness their attention are so important to business? Tune in next week for the next blog in the series, “The business case for attention management” from guest blogger Tony Crabbe.
1. Nick Atkin (2012) 40% of staff time is wasted on reading internal emails. The Guardian, Dec 17th
2. Rob Cross, Reb Rebele and Adam Grant (2016) Collaborative overload. Harvard Business Review Jan - Feb
3. Teresa Amabile (2011) The power of small wins. HBR Article
4. Microsoft and London Business School (2019), Work Reworked
5. M. Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harper Perennials, 1997
Emma is a Customer Success Manager at Microsoft and is passionate about bringing the human element into the workplace. She believes technology both enables change and can catalyze wider change efforts if introduced in the right way. Emma is based in Zurich and currently studying for her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology with a hope to leverage this in the organizational context.
Claudia van der Velden
Claudia is a Customer Success Manager at Microsoft and enjoys exploring organizational cultures from an eco-system perspective. In a complex puzzle where all is interconnected, small changes can have a large impact. She believes in the importance of considering all elements for the eco-system to thrive, stay well balanced, and perhaps most importantly, letting go of control and trusting the natural course to find its way. Claudia is based in the Netherlands and studies for her Masters in Applied Psychology, Leadership Development.
Tony Crabbe is a Business Psychologist who supports Microsoft on global projects as well as a number of other multinationals. As a psychologist he focuses on how people think, feel and behave at work. Whether working with leaders, teams or organizations, at its core his work is all about harnessing attention to create behavioral change.
His first book, the international best-seller ’Busy’ was published around the world and translated to thirteen languages. In 2016 it was listed as being in the top 3 leadership books, globally. His new book, ‘Busy@Home’ explores how to thrive through the uncertainties and challenges of Covid; and move positively into the hybrid world.
Tony is a regular media commentator around the world, as well as appearances on RTL, the BBC and the Oprah Winfrey Network.
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