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Does chatting at work make you less productive?

Women send 20% more messages yet complete 10% more work

With the rise of messaging applications, the ability to chat quickly with coworkers has drastically increased in recent years. But with new messages flooding notifications, workers have also seen an increase in interruptions.

According to researchers at the University of California, Irvine, it can take 25 minutes just to get back on task. Even more troubling, another study found that interruptions can lead to a 20% decrease in performance.

It would seem that too much chat could be a problem. Which led us to ask: does chatting at work make you less productive?

Using an anonymized data sampling of more than 3,000 women and men in Hive’s project management and collaboration platform, we wanted to compare the number of messages sent against the number of tasks completed.

Who sends the most messages?

We started by simply comparing the number of messages sent to the number of tasks completed this year. While we saw a positive trend between chatting and work completed, the most surprising result of our research was the significant difference in messages sent by gender. Women sent 20% more messages than their male counterparts.

Research has confirmed that positive social connections at work produce highly desirable results. While we know a positive work culture lends to positive emotions and well-being, how does it affect actual work output?

Although women send significantly more messages, we found that they also complete 10% more work than men do.

To further assess this correlation, we broke down messages sent and work completed by day of the week. Tuesdays are the most productive day for both genders, and it’s also the day when women send the most messages. This suggests that women use communication as a method of completing their work, not as a distraction from it.

Group vs. Direct Messages

The correlation between communication and productivity raised a second question — does the type of messaging have an impact on productivity?

Some have begun to argue that group messages can prevent women from participating. We found that men do contribute more to group messages than women, yet get less done. Perhaps there’s something to be said for the impact of the modern “watercooler” group chat and work completed, as direct messages are likely more focused.

Another interesting fact was that both men and women are more likely to send direct messages to their own gender. There are significant gaps in pay and title among gender, as data from McKinsey shows that both the number and the percentage of women in leadership tapers off dramatically. If both men and women continue to communicate more with their own gender, this tendency could perpetuate the gender gap in higher-ranking positions and the C-suite.

While the question of communication’s impact in the workplace is much bigger and more complex than this data set alone can tell us, these insights help us to better understand its effect on productivity.

For more insights on productivity gaps, the role of communication
styles, and how we approach working relationships, view the full data report at www.stateoftheworkplace.com

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