Why Apple’s Vision Pro can be the end of Work Focus as we know it.

eye tracking and the future of work distractions
With AR headset's eye tracking, you can select distractions by simply switching your gaze. Gloria Mark's work on human-computer interaction does not bode well for future productivity at work. (Dalvin Brown tries out an eye cursor in an Oct 2023 WSJ video)

Gloria Mark PhD, a renowned researcher in the field of human-computer interaction, has conducted extensive studies on self-interruptions and their impact on work focus. We look at Mark’s findings regarding self-interruptions, nested interruptions, and the challenges individuals face in returning to their original tasks. Furthermore, we will explore the implications of emerging technologies, such as the Apple Vision Pro AR headset, on workplace focus and productivity.

Gloria Mark, PhD. is the world’s eminent thought-leader on humanity’s relationship with technology, and has recently released a groundbreaking book Attention Span which gives some unexpected results to a massive research study she performed on work focus, multi-tasking and self-interrupting.

Understanding Self-Interruptions

Mark’s research sheds light on the phenomenon of self-interruptions, wherein individuals disrupt their own workflow without external stimuli prompting them to do so. Contrary to common belief, self-interruptions are pervasive and contribute significantly to reduced focus and productivity in the workplace. Individuals often succumb to the temptation of checking emails, social media notifications, or engaging in unrelated tasks, thereby fragmenting their attention and disrupting their workflow.

Nested Interruptions and Task Resumption

A notable aspect of Mark’s research is the concept of nested interruptions, wherein individuals experience a cascade of interruptions, leading to difficulty in resuming their original tasks. Rather than seamlessly returning to the initial task after an interruption, individuals find themselves caught in a cycle of distractions, hindering their ability to achieve deep focus and concentration. The average time taken to resume the original task after a series of interruptions is significantly longer than anticipated, highlighting the detrimental effects of task-switching on productivity.

Gloria Mark, PhD’s book Attention Span has changed the way psychologists and leaders think about focus and distraction at work, and how it relates to our technology. Get the audiobook free through a limited time offer.

Implications of Emerging Technologies

The advent of augmented reality (AR) headsets, exemplified by products like the Apple Vision Pro, introduces new challenges to workplace focus. These advanced devices offer seamless integration of digital content into the user’s physical environment, enabling tasks such as app selection, notifications, and internet browsing to be performed using eye-tracking technology. While touted for their innovative features, AR headsets pose a potential threat to traditional notions of focus and concentration in the workplace.

The Distracted Workforce of the Future

As AR headsets become as ubiquitous as smartphones in the workplace, the prevalence of distractions is expected to escalate. Individuals accustomed to rapid task-switching and constant stimuli will find it increasingly challenging to maintain sustained focus on their work tasks. The seamless integration of digital distractions into the user’s field of view will exacerbate the phenomenon of self-interruptions, leading to a workforce characterized by fragmented attention and diminished productivity.

Multitasking and Error Proneness

Mark’s research underscores the hidden costs of multitasking, particularly in high-stakes environments such as healthcare. Studies have shown that frequent interruptions and multitasking among physicians result in an increased likelihood of errors, ranging from medication prescriptions to critical decision-making. The cognitive strain imposed by constant task-switching compromises the quality of work and poses risks to both individuals and organizational outcomes.

AR has already made its way into manufacturing and product design settings. Although there are obvious improvements to productivity in roles where visuals are much of your job, there are risks to how distractions can also be amplified across multiple tasks, and Gloria Mark warns us of the limits our brains have to multi-tasking, including a concept called “Attention Residue”

Gloria Mark’s research on self-interruptions provides valuable insights into the challenges individuals face in maintaining focus and productivity in the modern workplace. The proliferation of distractions, compounded by the emergence of technologies like AR headsets, poses significant challenges to traditional notions of work focus. As organizations navigate this landscape of constant connectivity and digital stimuli, it becomes imperative to recognize the detrimental effects of interruptions on cognitive performance and explore strategies to mitigate their impact. By fostering a culture of mindful work habits and leveraging technology responsibly, organizations can empower individuals to reclaim their focus and achieve optimal performance in an increasingly distracted world.

Learn more about how Attention Residue is like a dirty white board in our mind. (at our partner: WorkforceWise)

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