The currency of the current world is attention!
In today’s world, attention has become the most precious commodity. With a surplus of available information, significant corporations are constantly competing to grab our attention by creating increasingly sophisticated algorithms. As a result, everyone’s brain is always overloaded. Netflix has even made a movie about how technology is evolving and transforming our world, which is worth checking out at https://www.netflix.com/title/81254224
In the modern workplace, we are inundated with potential distractions, including emails, messages on corporate messenger apps, meetings, and the need to juggle multiple projects simultaneously. In information technology, switching people between different tasks is easy, but this can come at a cost. Multitasking can create the illusion of increased productivity. Still, it often involves frequent switching between tasks, which can be detrimental to both work efficiency and the developer’s well-being.
Context-switching has a negative impact on a developer’s mental health and also leads to downtime in achieving project goals.
If developers constantly switch between tasks, it can take an average of 20 minutes to get back to the bottom of a task, communicate with others, and clarify details with their task manager. This can often result in incomplete work.
According to a study in Rethinking Productivity in Software Engineering, developers switch between tasks approximately 13 times per hour and spend only six minutes on each task before switching to another. On top of context switching, synchronous communication can also consume a significant amount of brain resources. The more frequently developers have to switch contexts and engage in synchronous communication, the more quickly they can become mentally drained, leading to decreased productivity and faster fatigue. This ultimately results in a reduction in the average number of effective working hours for development teams.
The benefits of asynchronous communication
One solution to the issue of context switching is to incorporate asynchronous communication into your work processes. The advantages of this approach are quite straightforward: you can revisit tasks, messages, or comments at any time, reflect on them, and pick up where you left off when you are ready to resume work on the task at hand.
For instance, instead of “Please send me a progress report.”, try providing specific details like “Please send me a progress report on your last sprint by 5 PM today. Include the number of tasks assigned, completed, and rolling over, along with reasons why. If you need to change the deadline, let me know in advance.”
The second message is concise; it directly explains what to do and avoids extra clarifications. This will help reduce the time until you get a result on the task.
How to structure your work
In addition to introducing asynchronous communication at the team level, several recommendations exist on how exactly you can build your work. A suggested scheme is to work in three modes:
- Information mining: reading comments, messages, and emails.
- Formulating and Prioritizing: working out exactly what needs to be done and how;
- Working on tasks.
And synchronous meetings – to plan if there is a request for a meeting. Even if it’s a “need to get together quickly to discuss details,” try to schedule a meeting. For example, in 30 minutes, when you finish the planned task not to change the context.
Below is an example where the number of context changes is reduced, and the team communicates more asynchronously.
Asynchronous standups are one solution to the problem of context switching
The current team format is hybrid, where some people are in the office, some are at home, and also in different time zones – i.e., in today’s realizations, it is pretty challenging to get the whole team together on one call, let alone to get together for a standup in one room.
Let’s imagine a situation where there is a word Eugene, who also works in a team and works 14 hours apart, will participate in a standup at his late at night – not the most comfortable time for him and his family. With all that said, the synchronized standup information is still just talk.
In this regard, we sincerely believe that synchronized standups are a relic of the past, and we need to switch to asynchronous standups, where each team member sends the text of the standup when he or she begins their work. And each team member can read the information from that stand-up comfortably.
In Enji, we have implemented functionality that allows you to organize the process of asynchronous standups –