The Stress of Multitasking in the Insurance Industry
Like many other professions, multitasking in the insurance industry is always looked at in many forms. Numerous websites and job advertisements mentioned categorically amongst the long list of professional forte the proficiency in multitasking as one of those prerequisites.
Many studies have reported that multitasking can reduce productivity by approximately 40 to 50 percent. This is because switching from one task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions and can cause mental blocks that slow down your progress. Multitasking is seen as a negative act that could bring more damage to the organisation than the positive point of completing a couple of tasks in a given time frame. On the contrary, multitasking is seen as a positive characteristic as many believe that while it is no easy feat to accomplish, once you nail it, you can become so much more efficient and effective in whatever projects you have on your plate. The skills of switching tasks and getting them completed in a given time need some form of balancing talent and skill. There are also times when multitasking is the only option but chunking is an even better choice as it involves less start-up. The following article looks into both sides of multitasking that you potentially combine to save time and maximise your productivity, and how to get the best out of it.
In one of the many Insurance Customer Service Agent Templates that I have seen, it mentioned the job scope “…that involves resolving customer’s problems and investigating the case with the customer in person or over the phone, and to review the claims status with the dealers as per the standards of the company and help the customers ….” The main aim is to resolve the issues smoothly; however, the customer service agents are required to escalate the issue to the next level if necessary. This is multitasking! As in many professions, multitasking within the management context is always seen as a negative act that could bring in more damage to the organisation than an advantage of completing a couple of tasks in a given time frame. In many studies, the impact and extent of damage caused by multitasking is determined by measuring the time lost in switching tasks. It has also been proven that many workers were slower when they had to switch tasks than when they repeated the same task. As tasks became more complex, the amount of time lost is more significant when workers switched between multiple tasks. Looking at it from a different perspective, multitasking is by no means an easy feat to accomplish. Once you nail it, you can become much more efficient and effective in whatever projects you have on the plate. Whether you are at home with household chores or at work, multitasking multiple projects requires focus, attention to detail and a flawless schedule that accompanies the flexibility to change what you need to do in order to get the job done. There are numerous advantages of multitasking, particularly when you do it within a work environment that works best for you. Taking on several projects at once is either a bonus talent that helps you out from time-to-time, or a necessary skill you need to keep a busy pace. Whatever the reason, it is important to be alert and spend just the right amount of time on the tasks. Too much time on any given thing could lead you to dropping the ball on other tasks, whereas the lackadaisical completion of everything is undesirable as well. Multitasking on multiple projects means you don't have to worry about becoming bored at work or with your personal projects. The more variety you have in your work, the more it will keep your interest. This particularly
…multitasking has to be handled strategically so [it] is managed by what is known as mental executive functions which control and manage other cognitive processes and determine how, when and in what order certain tasks are performed.
applies to the workplace, as multitasking on different projects means you may not be doing the same thing every day, which keeps your work life fresh and interesting. Multitasking is a clear sign of leadership, as it shows your ability to compartmentalise and prioritise various projects at one time, while getting them all towards the point of completion. If your projects are work-related and you are vying for that big promotion, multitasking multiple projects at one time may show your superiors that you are ready for new challenges. This means you don't miss out on the experience and opportunity that any of your projects may afford you. You aren't choosing to learn one new skill or engage in one set of responsibilities in exchange for missing out on the others. This is a distinct advantage of multitasking numerous projects because you are enhancing your overall field of experience and adding several new projects to your repertoire at one time instead of just one. The key is to realise what you are capable of and not take on more than you can handle. This is both a personal and professional advantage. Not only are you showing yourself what you are capable of, but you are showing others around you as well. Multitasking on multiple projects means exposure to different teams and groups of people, and your success in managing the numerous ventures inspires confidence in your colleagues. It also opens doors to new opportunities as you expose yourself to different types of work.
The truth of multitasking
In the present competitive world, the increasing demands on our lives – professional work, house work, raising children, finding time for exercise for good health, communication via telephone, twitter, text messaging or email – we often find ourselves racing for time. Time is always limited with the many things to do, so being selective on the many tasks at hand may not be the best answer. To compensate, multitasking is the norm for many of us who are looking for strategies to save time and be more productive in our daily activities. New available technology allows us to multitask at work, in the car, at home, and in many other places and occasions. We sometimes find ourselves multitasking with tasks we never thought we could do at the same time. While many may disagree, how about focusing on the available time and energy on one task to generate leads and new business opportunities? Or will you see more results by dividing your time and energy among the many different tasks to enhance your marketing? Did you know that multitasking does not actually increase productivity? The more tasks we do and the more marketing we throw out there, often the less productive we become. There is a common thought that with multitasking, we must do more than one thing at a time to accomplish the growing list of activities that pulls on our limited time. However, facts have proven that although we feel we are getting more done, we are actually giving ourselves more work when we multitask. When we multitask by performing two or
Multitasking can mean performing two or more tasks simultaneously. It can also involve switching back and forth from one task to another, or performing a number of tasks in rapid succession.
more related tasks at the same time or by alternating rapidly among them, errors greatly increase. How can this be fixed? I am not going to say it will be easy, but I have made three goals to help combat this problem and become more efficient in my time management. It’s only three, but it’s a start.
So, what does multitasking really mean? Multitasking can mean performing two or more tasks simultaneously. It can also involve switching back and forth from one task to another, or performing a number of tasks in rapid succession. To many of us, multitasking is seen as a positive characteristic as switching tasks and getting completed in a given time needs some form of balancing talent and skills. The fact is multitasking is accepted as a way of modern life. We could be driving and at the same time discussing with a partner on a very important issue. When you are reading this article, chances are you are also doing several things at once; perhaps you are also listening to music, online chatting with a friend, checking your emails or playing a computer game. As multitasking is seen as a norm, chances are many of us are ‘heavy multitaskers’ and think that we are fairly good at this balancing act. What is always forgotten is that we are probably not as effective at multitasking as we think we are. In the past, many people believed that multitasking was a good way to increase productivity. What is lacking is the understanding of the fact that switching from one task to another takes a serious toll on productivity. Multitaskers, especially the heavyweights, have more trouble tuning out distractions than people who focus on one task at a time. Doing so many different things at once can actually impair cognitive ability.
So, multitasking is seen as a negative characteristic that affects productivity. What if you have to do multitasking as that is the only choice available? Accepting negativity consciously needs talent. As multitasking can mean performing two or more tasks simultaneously, or switching back and forth from one thing to another, performing a number of tasks in rapid succession needs perseverance and
persistence. If the strength of these two attributes is slacking, productivity will be impaired, more time is lost and above all, quality is questionable. But a time must come when multitasking is the only option of the day. As a result, multitasking has to be handled strategically so that the positives supersede the negatives. Multitasking is managed by what is known as mental executive functions which control and manage other cognitive processes and determine how, when and in what order certain tasks are performed. There are two stages to the executive control process: the first is known as ‘goal shifting’ which is deciding to do one thing instead of another, and the second is known as ‘role activation’, which changes the rules to perform the previous task to a set of new rules for the new task. Although the time taken to switch performing goal shifting and role activation may take a few tenths of a second, the time to perform both tasks will add up, especially so if the two tasks are switched back and forth repeatedly. This might not be that big of a deal in some cases, such as when you are changing television channels and reading the newspaper. It will only turn out to be significant in cases where safety, deadlines or productivity are critical, such as when you are on the way to an important meeting and getting caught in heavy traffic, even small amounts of time can prove critical.
before trying to accomplish the task is vital so that distractions and stress are eliminated. It is important to focus on one task at a time rather than cramming more in a quest to get more done for multitasking is not going to work, under most circumstances. Multitasking can only work when it involves trivial tasks. For example, as we lie in bed we think about the agenda for an important meeting tomorrow. Lying in bed doesn’t take much of the brain’s processing power, so thinking about the meeting agenda is not affected even if it is shared with another task which is simply lying in bed. On the other hand, two different tasks which require more of the brain’s capacity may require more thought. You might be talking on the phone when you are in the midst of a busy morning traffic rush. You may get both tasks accomplished, but you would not have thought of doing both tasks better and in less time if you had done one task after the other instead of doing both at the same time and end up being stressed.
…multitasking can reduce productivity by approximately 40 to 50 percent.
Productivity can be reduced by as much as 40 to 50 percent by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks. Realising the potential detrimental impact of multitasking and the associated constraints can actually make it work to decrease productivity and efficiency. Depending on the situation, the costs of switching tasks while talking to a friend and watching a movie at home probably is not going to cause any serious problems. However, that fraction of a second it takes to change tasks could mean life or death for someone driving down a busy highway while talking on the phone. It is only good when multitasking can lead to increased productivity but how is this achieved? Given that multitasking and productivity are intercomplementary, assessing the whole situation W.M.A. Wan Hussin is a Professor at the School of Civil Engineering, Universiti Sains Malaysia. He conducts several courses and training programmes on stress management and delivers public lectures and talks on management issues for various organisations. He is currently a Licensed Land Surveyor, Malaysian Speaking Professional (MSP) of the Malaysian Association of Professional Speakers, Fellow and Council Member of the Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia, a Certified Professional Utility Locator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, stop multitasking
Multitasking actually wastes a lot of the limited time we have daily. Multitasking involves more startups thus interrupting work flow and progress. Learn to practise chunking as it teaches us to be more efficient and more productive. The most practical approach is therefore to set aside chunks of time for specific tasks and reduce the time spent in start-up moments. As we increase the number and size of chunks during the day and week, we are in fact pushing away interruptions to the best of our ability. The fact is, no matter how well we chunk, there will still be interruptions. You only make yourself more focussed and more productive as you chunk. So, just chunk as you go.