Your helpfulness at work is hurting your job performance

One of the issues we discovered in grade faculty was the significance of serving to others. Whether it was displaying the brand new child tips on how to discover the cafeteria or accumulating papers for the instructor, the idea was clear: being useful is a advantage.

But as soon as we entered the enterprise world, we quickly discovered that being a helper at the workplace—particularly immediately, when “the office” is virtual for a lot of—comes at the price of our private productiveness and creativity. 

Long-tenured workers with deep institutional data are leaned on by their friends for directions or approval. High performers are often pulled away from their very own work to assist newer workers, and they’re requested to hold extra weight than others. Those less-tenured employees could be paralyzed whereas ready for sign-off on their very own work.


This “collaboration overload” could be detrimental not solely to our job performance, however our basic well-being. It’s essential that organizations empower their workers to guard their time—and their sanity—so their intuition to be useful doesn’t trigger extra hurt than good. 

Collaborative work consumes most of our week 

“Collaborative work”—the time we spend working with and serving to others (together with with electronic mail, prompt messages, cellphone calls, and video chats)—has risen dramatically over the previous decade. Email and different inside collaboration actions account for 42% of the common data employee’s time, in line with McKinsey, leaving us much less time for deeper, extra centered solo work.  

This downside solely worsened as data employees deserted shared workplaces to WFH in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. No longer in a position to lean over to ask our neighbor a fast query, we’ve needed to flip to distant work communication instruments that take extra day trip of our day. According to Microsoft analysis, voice and video name occasions doubled in the course of the pandemic, and prompt message visitors spiked by 65% for some distant work groups.

Uber tracked the utilization of collaboration instruments throughout this time and noticed a 40% improve in conferences and a forty five% improve within the common variety of members per assembly, in addition to a threefold improve in Zoom conferences and Slack messages. This resulted in a 30% lower in focus time (two or extra hours of uninterrupted time engaged on a particular process or challenge), which was proven to have a robust correlation to worker productiveness ranges. 


As we spend extra time on collaborative work, the duties that require centered focus take longer to finish. This causes our workdays to increase into the night hours and even weekends, which will increase our burnout threat. And probably the most useful amongst us are at the very best threat. 

A principally self-inflicted downside 

It’s straightforward in charge Zoom and Slack for our problem discovering time to focus. In reality, Lucid surveyed 1,000 full-time employees and found that 37% of people that work remotely at least three days per week stated fixed notifications from collaboration instruments negatively impacted their creativity.

But there’s extra to the story: Studies present that 20% to 35% of value-added collaboration comes from simply 3% to five% of workers. These “extra milers” construct a popularity for being succesful workers and prepared helpers and are regularly drawn into collaborative efforts and requests for help. As a consequence, their job performance can endure. 

Unfortunately, a lot of this teamwork occurs underneath the radar, so it goes unnoticed and unrecognized by administration. This is very true in hybrid and distant settings, the place one-to-one conferences happen on-line and subsequently aren’t seen to higher-ups. 


Compounding the issue, all of this collaboration comes with the added value of context switching. Studies have proven that after we are interrupted—whether or not it’s for 30 seconds to learn an electronic mail or for an hour-long assembly—it could actually take as much as 20 minutes to refocus on the duty we have been engaged on.

Add the each day distractions of WFH—spouses, youngsters, and pets who demand consideration, knocks at the door, dishes that should be washed—and our work-life stability will get obliterated.

Preventing collaboration overload and burnout

Excessive collaboration can result in burnout, which leaves individuals feeling unappreciated, irritable, and perpetually exhausted—and on the lookout for one other job (which is undoubtedly not useful). 

Top performers know that saying “yes” to collaboration requests means saying “no” to different issues. Understanding the areas the place you’re finest outfitted to really add worth—somewhat than agreeing to one more assembly since you wish to appear to be a workforce participant — will allow you to handle your time extra successfully. 

Here are a number of extra ways for safeguarding your productiveness and creativity: 

  • Time blocking: Block off time on your calendar for centered work so it’s seen to your co-workers, and resist responding to non-urgent messages throughout these hours. 
  • Agenda setting: For each assembly you name, be sure the agenda is clear, and inform your attendees that you’ve got a tough cease at the tip. (If you’re not working the assembly, ask the one that is for an agenda to assist everybody keep on matter.) 
  • Standing conferences: Schedule common, devoted standing conferences with your colleagues and different challenge stakeholders. Encourage everybody to carry their questions or issues for this designated time as a way to scale back interruptions throughout the remainder of the workweek.
  • Boundaries: Be clear with managers and workforce members about when your working hours begin and finish — and stick with them as a lot as doable to guard your private assets. 

If you don’t really feel snug doing this stuff— or saying “no” to collaborative actions—that signifies an issue that must be addressed at a better stage. If you’re feeling the consequences of collaboration overload, a few of your colleagues most likely are, too. Talk to your supervisor—and even HR—about investing in knowledge-sharing tools. Build in time for deep work. It could be difficult for these of us who have been taught to worth the hustle to acknowledge that pondering is working—however that’s when the magic occurs

Chris Savage, cofounder and CEO of video internet hosting platform Wistia, mentioned this in his must-read weblog publish, “Thinking is Work. Give Yourself Time to Do It. 

In the early days of the company, Savage viewed his then-empty calendar with hesitation. “I dreamed that someday my calendar would be full of important things to do.” 

However he now credit a lot of the corporate’s progress to that clean house. With all that free time, he writes, “we did figure out how to build a product, find customers, market ourselves, build a culture, and do all the other things you need to do to create a business.”

“It’s hard to see open-ended thinking as work because so much of it doesn’t result in concrete changes and progress,” says Savage, whose firm has half 1,000,000 clients. “And yet, the most important and influential ideas come from open-ended thinking.”

Jennifer Smith is CEO and cofounder of Scribe, an app that mechanically generates step-by-step how-to guides for any process. Smith, a Princeton and Harvard Business School alum, was beforehand a know-how investor and adviser at McKinsey and Greylock Partners.

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