Everyone recognises the tendency to
persist in working on to get something finished. We
do this even though making headway becomes
increasingly difficult as time goes on, mistakes
start to be made and creativity suffers. The reason
for this is that our concentration is limited to one
hour time periods and because our energy levels
fluctuate during the day.
Our energy levels are especially low in the
afternoon (Thayer, 2001). Not surprisingly, one’s
typing speed is slower and the number of typing
errors is greater in the afternoon than in the
morning. During the afternoon, studies show that
concentration is reduced after just 20 minutes.
After an hour, staff work noticeably more slowly and
make more mistakes. In the afternoon, problem
solving skills are also greatly reduced with staff
persisting in working on inefficient solutions.
(Boksem et al., 2005; Lorist et al., 2000, 2005).
This may sound familiar.
An effective strategy to restore concentration is
to take regular pit stops, a quick refreshing
reanimation every 15 minutes, and focusing on
something else for a short period every hour. This
can be done by doing something completely different,
such as a short walk, exercises or reading (Coker,
2011; Sauter & Swanson, 1991).
The most important
element is that whatever you do is a switch from the
work you are breaking from. This increases one’s
working speed and reduces the number of errors we
make. Estimates show that the gain in efficiency can
be at least 15 minutes a day (Van den Heuvel et al.,
2002; Hedge & Evans, 2001).
Although taking pit stops during work is
effective, it is also counterintuitive. In a Formula
1 race, a racing driver enters the pits while his
competitors race on. But by servicing his car and
temporarily allowing the driver to break
concentration and refocus his average speed during
the race increases.
Similarly, the efficiency gained
by making the pit-stop in total outweighs the
apparent delay caused by carrying out the procedure.
More than half of staff take lunch at their desk
(Ijmker, 2008). If colleagues do not take pit-stops,
this makes it culturally difficult to take a
necessary pit stop oneself. Research shows that we
are incredibly bad at identifying when we need to
take a pit-stop and often stop after we already feel
tired and mental fatigue has set in.
To perform at
an optimum level for longer periods we need to
pit-stop before we start to feel the effects of
fatigue. A solution is to make staff conscious of
when pit stops are needed.
The value of the pit stop
CtrlWORK from Efficiency Software is an advisory
software solution that suggests pit-stops to staff
via messages displayed on screen. Messages will only
load when the software recognises that an individual has
been working continuously at their computer for an
extended period without taking a natural pit-stop.
If a natural pit-stop is taken then CtrlWORK will
not unnecessarily intervene.
These pit-stop messages are designed to be
positive, attractive and educational. They are
broad-ranging and grouped into types so that staff
can turn off any that will not interest them. After
all, not everybody finds the same things
interesting. The types of messages include; news
flashes from the internet, as well as company
intranet messages, email and time management tips,
even exercises and postural advice.
can put together bespoke content for pit-stops on
any subject they wish to promote to staff. To
encourage good pit-stop behaviour among staff, the
software provides feedback at the start of the
working day when the employee is most open to it.
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