Multitasking Impacting Small Businesses, Survey Finds

A survey from SurePayroll finds businesses are increasingly in need of proficient multitaskers--but some companies find it is adversely impacting business quality.

A survey by online payroll specialist SurePayroll found small to medium-size businesses are being forced to do more with less in a constrictive economy, but an increase in multitasking is hurting the quality of service at some midmarket companies. The survey found 88 percent of small business owners think multitasking is now a key component in running a successful business that business owners should embrace.

Despite the widespread acceptance of multitasking, one in four small business owners report that multitasking in some way hinders their working ability. Multitasking skeptics cited everything from decreased quality in work, tasks taking longer than in the past and becoming burned out more quickly. While the majority of businesses felt a need to embrace multitasking, respondents said concentrating on multiple tasks had negative impacts as well, including quality dilution, longer time frames to accomplish tasks and difficulty concentrating.

"Business owners we talk with are doing everything they can to weather the storm, and that includes working on more and more projects simultaneously to ensure their businesses stay in top form," said SurePayroll President Michael Alter, who attributed the increasing tendency to multitask to current economic conditions. "With job cuts at record highs, like it or not, multitasking is essential these days, and business owners must be proficient multitaskers."

According to Alter, business owners can avoid feeling overburdened with tasks by getting organized and finding ways to eliminate unnecessary processes. Indeed, 56 percent of respondents indicated that they often handle three or more tasks simultaneously. Instead of going out alone and trying to be everywhere at once, Alter suggests these methods for cutting down workload stress, including making a prioritized list of tasks, outsourcing business operations and taking advantage of down time.

"Allowing yourself to get burned out by taking on too many tasks is a sure-fire way to hurt your business," said Alter. "Now more than ever, business owners need to reexamine their business processes to eliminate inefficiencies and make some small investments in tools that will help alleviate their to-do list. This will allow them to focus on often-overlooked elements of their business that may help make it more profitable."

Survey respondent Lydia Rivera, agent and owner of Allstate Insurance Company in Georgia, said in being a business owner, you usually don't get the option of doing one thing at a time. "You wear many hats. Whether it's checking e-mail, correcting someone's hours, paying bills, answering the phone, running a quote and writing business ... I have to do it all with patience and give each task my full attention and accuracy," she said. "Somehow I pull it off and it's become what I am used to doing."