As the Gen Z and Millennial cohort begin to dominate the global workforce, there is much still unknown about what the future state of the workplace looks like.
In a previous post, we looked at how best to support Gen Z and what we do currently know is that the traditional workplace as we once knew it will likely be unrecognisable to future generations.
One interesting talking point about the evolution of the workplace is attention span and focus.
According to IAB, Gen Z typically have an attention span of just 8 seconds; a few seconds shorter than millennials, who come in at approximately 12 seconds.
Lifestyle factors play a role here. When it comes to advertising, a Yahoo and OMD Worldwide study found that Gen Z loses active attention for ads after just 1.3 seconds‚Äîless time than any other age group. It concluded that Gen Z decides instantly where their interests lie, and then they skip or scroll past content that doesn't intrigue. That contrasts with older generations who expect to sit through ads as they did (and still do) with TV commercials.
When applying this to the workplace, it's no surprise that Millennial and Gen Z employees could get a bad rep when it comes to attention and focus.
An interesting piece of research carried out by Maribel R. Diz (2021) looked into short attention spans in the workplace and how this is being magnified by the incoming Generation Z cohort and existing millennials. It found that companies will need to adapt to shorter attention spans, along with what will engage and retain these two cohorts.
However‚Ä¶and there is a BIG however here‚Ä¶ the study also found that Gen Z and millennials have an uncanny ability to focus. They get distracted audibly versus visually, and they plug in to tune out noise by using ear buds, listening to music or using noise cancelling headsets. A critical finding here is that attention and focus are mutually exclusive.
Other key findings were that they are most engaged when working on projects that are rewarding and impactful, meaningful work and being challenged. They prefer a leader who will provide guidance, has their back, coaches and provides feedback. They have an importance placed on development and favours an inspirational leadership style.
Assuming that Gen Z and millennials are fairly paid with good benefit, they will stay if they have continued learning experiences and participate in rewarding and impactful work, which is intrinsic in nature.
Answering the title of this post‚Ä¶ are we losing focus?
Do we have shortened attention spans?
Yes, across the board.
So should leaders adapt to generational differences?
Here are a few ways to regain focus at work:
- Create a Distraction-Free Zone: Designate a specific area in your workspace as a distraction-free zone. Turn off notifications, put your phone on silent, and close unnecessary browser tabs to minimise interruptions.
- Prioritise Tasks with Time Blocking: Use time blocking to schedule specific time slots for each task or project. This structured approach helps you focus solely on one task at a time and prevents feeling overwhelmed.
- Take Short Breaks: Give your brain periodic breaks to recharge. Short, focused breaks can improve productivity and prevent burnout. Consider the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break.
- Practice Mindfulness or Meditation: Incorporate mindfulness or meditation practices into your daily routine. These techniques can help calm your mind, reduce stress, and improve concentration.
- Utilise To-Do Lists: Create daily or weekly to-do lists to stay organised and on track. Crossing off completed tasks provides a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to continue focusing.
- Establish Clear Goals: Set clear and achievable goals for the day, week, or month. Having a sense of purpose and direction makes it easier to stay focused and prioritise tasks effectively.
- Limit Multitasking: Resist the urge to multitask, as it can lead to reduced productivity and lower quality of work. Focus on one task at a time to maximise efficiency and concentration.
- Stay Hydrated and Energised: Ensure you stay hydrated and maintain balanced nutrition throughout the day. Dehydration and hunger can negatively impact your ability to concentrate.
- Declutter Your Workspace: A cluttered workspace can be distracting and make it challenging to focus. Keep your desk tidy and organised to create a conducive environment for concentration.
- Implement the Two-Minute Rule: If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately rather than putting it off. This helps to clear quick tasks and prevents them from piling up.
- Use Focus Apps or Website Blockers: Consider using focus apps or website blockers to temporarily block access to distracting websites and social media during work hours.
- Engage in Regular Physical Activity: Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, as it can improve cognitive function and enhance focus.