Your helpfulness at work is hurting your job performance

One of many issues we discovered in grade faculty was the significance of serving to others. Whether or not it was displaying the brand new child find out how to discover the cafeteria or amassing papers for the trainer, the idea was clear: being useful is a advantage.

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

Lengthy-tenured staff with deep institutional data are leaned on by their friends for directions or approval. Excessive performers are regularly pulled away from their very own work to assist newer staff, and they’re requested to hold extra weight than others. These less-tenured staff might be paralyzed whereas ready for sign-off on their very own work.


This “collaboration overload” might be detrimental not solely to our job performance, however our basic well-being. It’s essential that organizations empower their staff 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 e mail, prompt messages, telephone calls, and video chats)—has risen dramatically over the previous decade. E-mail and different inside collaboration actions account for 42% of the typical data employee’s time, in keeping with McKinsey, leaving us much less time for deeper, extra centered solo work.  

This drawback solely worsened as data staff deserted shared workplaces to WFH throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Now not capable of 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. In response to Microsoft analysis, voice and video name instances doubled throughout 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% enhance in conferences and a forty five% enhance within the common variety of contributors per assembly, in addition to a threefold enhance 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 job 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 best threat. 

A largely self-inflicted drawback 

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


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

Sadly, a lot of this teamwork occurs below 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 due to this fact aren’t seen to higher-ups. 

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

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

Stopping collaboration overload and burnout

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

High performers know that saying “sure” to collaboration requests means saying “no” to different issues. Understanding the areas the place you’re greatest geared up to truly add worth—somewhat than agreeing to yet one more assembly since you need to appear like a workforce participant — will enable you to handle your time extra successfully. 

Listed here are just a few extra techniques 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 top. (In the event you’re not operating 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 with the intention to cut 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 persist with them as a lot as attainable to guard your private assets. 

In the event you don’t really feel comfy doing this stuff— or saying “no” to collaborative actions—that signifies an issue that must be addressed at a better stage. In the event you’re feeling the results of collaboration overload, a few of your colleagues most likely are, too. Speak to your supervisor—and even HR—about investing in knowledge-sharing tools. Construct in time for deep work. It may be difficult for these of us who have been taught to worth the hustle to acknowledge that considering 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 put up, “Thinking is Work. Give Yourself Time to Do It. 

Within the early days of the corporate, Savage seen his then-empty calendar with hesitation. “I dreamed that sometime my calendar could be filled with necessary issues to do.” 

Nonetheless he now credit a lot of the corporate’s development to that clean house. With all that free time, he writes, “we did work out find out how to construct a product, discover clients, market ourselves, construct a tradition, and do all the opposite issues it’s worthwhile to do to create a enterprise.”


“It’s onerous to see open-ended considering as work as a result of a lot of it doesn’t end in concrete modifications and progress,” says Savage, whose firm has half 1,000,000 clients. “And but, crucial and influential concepts come from open-ended considering.”

Jennifer Smith is CEO and cofounder of Scribe, an app that routinely generates step-by-step how-to guides for any job. Smith, a Princeton and Harvard Enterprise College alum, was beforehand a expertise investor and adviser at McKinsey and Greylock Companions.