*Editors Note: This article is by a guest contributor, K.C. Dermody. In it, she argues that multitasking at work can be unethical. What do you think of her arguments?
By K.C. Dermody
We Love Multitasking
The ability to multitask can be a great asset when it comes to many jobs. In fact, it’s been suggested that this is one of the key skills that many interviewers are looking for in their job candidates. According to Robert Half International, the world’s leader in professional staffing and consulting services, 36 percent of employers named multitasking as one of the most important characteristics in a job applicant.
There are many reasons an employee might need to multitask, in this fast paced world everything is expected in an instant. An employee might answer the phone and write an email at the same time or work on five different projects all at once with multiple windows, tabs and programs open simultaneously.
Suddenly the employee appears to be jumping through tasks seamlessly, and in the eyes of managers and co-workers he might achieve rock star status in the office by taking on so many different projects at once.
Multitasking Gone Wrong
Despite multitasking’s good reputation, however, it can also have drawbacks. With everything in life, there needs to be a balance. The problem starts when the employee finds it impossible to focus on just one task, only giving each project a portion of their attention as a result. This is when mistakes are most likely to happen, and if the employee is in a customer service related position, the customer they are dealing with will not receive the full attention that they deserve.
By multitasking, you may be doing a lot of work, but you aren’t doing any of it well. According to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they found that those who multitask the most are far worse at it than those people who focus on fewer tasks simultaneously.
Multitasking as Unethical
This makes multitasking unethical when it comes to business for a number of reasons. We all know that it’s dangerous to get behind the wheel of the car and not give our full attention to driving. Most states have laws against driving and using a cell phone for this very reason. While you may not be risking your life by multitasking at work, you may be risking your company’s reputation by not giving your full attention to the job.
Another issue that arises is that many talented multitaskers find that if they do not have enough projects to work on all at once, they begin to mix their own personal affairs with business.
According to a survey by Salary.com and American Online as reported by Inc.com, employees spend an “average of 1.86 hours per eight-hour workday on something other than their jobs, not including lunch and scheduled break.” They concluded that based on those averages, “employee time-wasting costs U.S. employers an estimated $544 billion in lost productivity each year.”
It’s not hard to see how multitasking can quickly turn into something that crosses the line when it comes to business ethics. Not only is it easier to make a mistake on the job, making the company look bad, multitaskers often use company time for their own personal reasons, effectively stealing the company’s time, and therefore, their money.
Perhaps it’s time we change the way we look at multitasking and relearn how to focus on one task at a time. The ability to stay focused provides a better sense of accomplishment as each project is done right the first time and may also be more effective in the long run.
K.C. Dermody is a freelance writer with thousands of articles published on both online sites and printed publications, as well as having extensive experience in sales and recruiting within the Human Resources industry.”