Collaboration is often cited as an essential component of today’s business world. Employees are expected to work together to solve problems, drive business outcomes, and support and encourage each other for improved productivity and job satisfaction. As with anything, however, collaboration works best when used in moderation.
Recognize the Red Flags of Collaboration Overload
While collaboration at first seems like an effective way to share tasks for better productivity, too much collaboration can actually stymie productivity. According to a Harvard Business Review report, people spend around 80 percent of their workdays engaged in collaborative activities, such as answering emails, talking on the phone, or attending a virtual or real-world meeting. Furthermore, only a handful of employees offer real value when engaging in collaborative activities – everyone else is happy to let the achievement-oriented collaborators take charge.
In this collaborative environment, overextended employees can burn out due to stress from time constraints or the need to work after hours to complete critical work tasks that collaborative activities have prevented. The increased stress from too much collaboration can ultimately result in poor health and the loss of talent.
Collaboration overload tends to follow this pattern, and super visors may notice red flags by talking to employees or looking over team schedules. Are certain individuals attending more meetings than they can handle? Are average or high-performing employees producing underwhelming results? Noticing those who repeatedly stay late when everyone else leaves the office may also indicate who is being overextended. At a certain point, collaboration can move into the realm of imbalance and burnout.
Address Collaboration as a Barrier to Productivity
If you start to notice signs of collaboration overload, collaboration solutions themselves can help you identify and turn the problem around before you lose a valuable team member to burnout. Managers can use project management platforms and team scheduling solutions to identify lopsided trends in participation and encourage adjustments in the workflow to create more balance. In addition to recognizing and talking to team members, try these tips to prevent collaboration overload from taking over in the first place:
• Encourage team members to question the point of collaborative activities. Every collaborative endeavor should meet some actionable goal. If meetings or work engagements aren’t going anywhere, encourage individuals to ask some hard questions about the current process and to find solutions to keep a project moving forward.
• Empower employees to take ownership of their roles. In other words, give them the right to say no to certain projects. Helping other departments or team members occasionally is great, but not when it interferes with an individual’s main directive. Too much collaboration can make an employee feel lost within the organization, especially when other people take credit for the work.
• Use technology to maximize collaborative activities. Unified communications platforms can help team members manage their time more effectively. Find solutions that will minimize the number of interactions required to complete a project, including videoconferencing, file sharing, chat, and record keeping. If needed, schedule some extra training for team members.
• Address individuals who aren’t pulling their own weight. Collaborative platforms can help supervisors identify the overachievers as well as the underachievers of a group. Use performance-based metrics to recognize these differing types and start an honest conversation with those who fail to actively contribute to team goals.
To fully address collaboration overload, businesses need a strong collaboration platform as well as strong leadership. The platform can help businesses identify unhealthy patterns in work activities; however, without the proper leadership to drive change, team dynamics won’t shift. Collaboration overload shouldn’t serve as a warning against collaborative activities, but as a reminder that you can have too much of a good thing.