Nearly everyone who works in an office is familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed by daily tasks and internal communication demands. Most employees in modern workplaces are constantly swamped with emails, meeting requests, texts, and instant messages - even when they’re out of the office.
The result? We’ve all become expert multitaskers. The only problem is that multitasking has been shown, time and time again, to be completely ineffective. When we multitask we’re actually far less productive than when we focus all of our attention on a single task, and we make more mistakes during the course of our work. When employees spend their days flipping back and forth between email, Slack, FB Workplace, Basecamp, and whatever other project management software their organization is using, the whole business suffers.
For employees, multitasking can feel like the only way to survive in an age of technology, app, and information overload. But rather than encourage this behavior, organizations should look for ways to simplify the digital workplace. Simplification is the path to improved employee focus, productivity, and job satisfaction. Below are four ways you can help make that happen.
The first step to simplifying the digital workplace is to streamline the solutions you have in place. At many organizations, there’s little to no oversight of all the platforms and apps that are in use at any given time. This means that the number of platforms in use, and the amount of time required to manage the information each one generates, can quickly become unmanageable.
If you think you have an information overload issue at your company, doing an inventory of all the systems and platforms that employees are required to interact with is a smart place to start. This process will help you identify redundant technologies and streamline the solutions you have in place.
Once systems with duplicate purposes have been eliminated, you should clearly establish whose role it will be to maintain oversight of all the systems in use and put in place a process for the acquisition of any new technology or solution.
Make Usability A Priority
Onboarding new software and workflows are difficult even in the best of circumstances. No matter how carefully vetted the platform or technology is, and no matter how much research has been dedicated to ensuring it’s the right fit, there will always be a certain amount of employee resistance. It’s a universal truth that most people don’t like change, even if the change in question is designed to improve the way they work.
Onboarding can become an all-out nightmare if the product you’re asking employees to adopt doesn’t have an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Usability is a key factor in determining whether or not a product becomes truly useful to your team. When usability is lacking, employees will find ways to avoid using the platform or create workarounds that render it useless. This can cause splintered communication across and within teams in your organization.
When reviewing the apps and platforms your teams currently use, consider whether any of them are under-utilized and work to get to the bottom of why this is the case. See if outdated, clunky products can be eliminated and replaced with more modern, user-friendly solutions.
Don’t Adopt Technology For Its Own Sake
If you look hard enough, you’ll discover that there is a platform or an app on the market claiming to solve practically any productivity problem a company could face. The sales pitches for these products are often very persuasive, and it’s easy to find yourself caught up believing that a new product or app is all you need to make your employees more productive or your operations more efficient.
But too often organizations are quick to adopt new technologies simply because they think that’s what they should be doing, not because they’re confident these solutions will improve operations. Adopting a new technology for its own sake is a guaranteed way to add another distraction to the workflow and force employees to juggle a greater number of information streams at any given time.
Be very cautious about the proliferation of internal systems in use at your organization. Do a thorough review to make sure each of them serves a clear, demonstrable purpose, and doesn’t simply add more work for your team.
Create A Culture Of Consciousness
Keeping the workplace apps and platforms your organization uses limited to only those that add value is key to simplifying the digital workplace, but there are some basic changes that can be made to the company culture which will also help reduce information overload.
Laptops, smartphones, and video conferencing have caused a shift in the way we work, allowing us to be connected to our offices from virtually anywhere. These technological advances have major benefits. For example, they allow companies to offer employees the ability to work from home, and they mean that even geographically distant teams can connect seamlessly.
But these same technological advances have also contributed to an “always on” corporate culture, in which employees are always working, even when they’re at home in the evening and on weekends. This type of culture can quickly lead to employee burnout and feelings of being overwhelmed by work -- both of which are ultimately disastrous for productivity.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to set a better tone and create a more productive, harmonious company culture. To accomplish this, your leadership team has to commit to recognizing efficiency and job effectiveness, as opposed to the simple volume of hours an employee puts it.
You can also help employees by freeing up more of their time to spend doing real work instead of ping-ponging emails back and forth all day. For example, you can create a policy of conscious emailing, asking employees to be conscientious about how many emails they send and who they choose to copy on each message. Similarly, you can outlaw unnecessary meetings and encourage managers to be selective about who needs to be in the meetings that are necessary.
In the quest to create a more productive digital workplace, the solution is usually not in adopting more technologies, but rather in streamlining the solutions you already have in place and optimizing your systems of usability. A focus on a productive culture, as opposed to a “busy” one, will help eliminate distractions and make space for focused, meaningful work.