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Beyond Collaboration Overload: How to Work Smarter, Get Ahead, and Restore Your Well-Being

Dylan Schleicher

September 08, 2021

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At a time when so many of us have allowed our focus and relationships to become unidimensional, in orbit around our work, Rob Cross offers a framework that focuses us back on our fuller lives. And that may be exactly what we need to be happier and more productive at work.

BeyondCollaborationOverload.jpegBeyond Collaboration Overload: How to Work Smarter, Get Ahead, and Restore Your Well-Being by Rob Cross, Harvard Business Review Press 

Burnout at work is nothing new, but the scale and scope of it may be. Multiple studies show that it is affecting more of us, and is touching our lives more intimately, than ever before. Some of that is undoubtedly due to the added stresses and strain of attempting to maintain the workloads and level of productivity we had become accustomed to even amidst a global pandemic. Some of it is that those workloads—more than a decade after massive layoffs swept through workplaces across America during the Great Recession and left so many businesses staffed at overly lean levels—were unsustainable in the first place.  

We’ve seen a rise in collaboration, and the technological tools that enable it, since then, which in theory should be a great thing for us as both workers and social beings, and...  “Yet,” as Rob Cross points out in Beyond Collaboration Overload, “today’s corporations are not happy places.” 

Many of them are plagued by stress, burnout, loss of engagement, unexplained declines in individual performance, attrition, mental health problems, and addiction—issues that cripple companies’ never-ending quests for greater performance. We endure a volume, diversity, and velocity of collaborations that place an unprecedented tax on our time and brains. … We go home exhausted but with little ability to pinpoint what is causing our burnout. 

If only the problem stopped when we got home, but our work now follows us around on the collaboration apps we’ve downloaded to our devices to keep up, even as our attempts at keeping up feel like they are pushing us further and further behind, our desire to stay connected leading us into increasing social isolation. Yes, we have all made myriad efforts at becoming more productive and more collaborative… 

But the reality is that we’re all flooded with unproductive collaboration, and we’re drowning. 

Cross identifies how collaborative work is eating up ever more amounts of our time, and how we can reverse that trend—and improve our overall performance and personal well-being in the process—by uncovering and focusing on strategies for essential collaboration. At a time when so many of us have allowed our focus and relationships to become unidimensional, always in orbit around our work, Cross offers a framework that focuses us back on our fuller lives. That may be just what we need to focus more clearly and productively on essential collaboration when we are back at work. 

About The Author

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of Porchlight since 2003. After beginning in shipping and receiving, he moved through customer service (with some accounting on the side) before entering into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the editorial and creative aspects of the company. Outside of work, you’ll find him volunteering or hanging out at his kids’ school, catching the weekly summer concert at the Washington Park Bandshell, or strolling through one of the many other parks or greenspaces around his home in Milwaukee (most likely in his garden). He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.

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