Too Much Technology Overwhelms Workers, Hurts Productivity

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Technology is supposed to make life better anyway you look at it—in terms of productivity, experience, quality or pretty much wherever it’s applied. But a study by the UK-based digital work platform Qatalog and the Ellis Ideas Lab at Cornell University reports that, in fact, the impact of digital tools at work isn’t so positive.

Employees waste an hour a day trying to find information buried within their apps, the study found. Six in 10 people say it’s hard to know what colleagues are doing at any given time. And 43% say they spend too much time switching between apps. Productivity software, it seems, is cheating workers out of time, focus and creativity.

Irony of ironies: Productivity software is cheating workers out of time, focus and creativity, a new study's found. #HR #HRTech @qatalog Share on X

“There’s been an explosion in the number of apps we rely on to do our jobs, but the result isn’t greater productivity. It’s total chaos,” said Qatalog CEO Tariq Rauf. Each tool is “adding to a noisy digital environment that is, quite literally, driving workers to distraction.” All the time spent on navigating technical tools takes away from users’ efforts to engage with colleagues or even think, he said.

Irony of Ironies

In a typical working day, workers waste 59 minutes trying to find information across tools like Google Workspace, Dropbox and Slack, the study found. Because information is fragmented across too many tools, 54% say finding what they need is more difficult than it has to be.

Meantime, despite all the talk we hear about “connection,” people are uncertain about what work has been undertaken on the platforms used by other teams. For example, a branding team might rely on a project management solution while the content team organizes its work in a wiki and the sales team tracks its efforts in a CRM. About 61% say it can be hard to figure out what others are working on, while 44% say siloed tools make it difficult to know whether work is being duplicated.

Nearly half of workers, 49%, are concerned that the information they post to their company’s systems will get lost amid updates. That leads to more work and more information, with 53% saying they deliver updates even when they’re not necessary.

And despite the preponderance of tools in the workplace, employees still turn to co-workers when they need information, rather than access it directly. Typically, they interrupt at least two people to find what they need, and they do it up to five times a day. That ends up generating more messages, calls and interruptions.

Switch Here, Switch There

The mechanics of juggling multiple apps is problematic, as well. Forty-three percent of workers report spending too much time switching between different tools, whether they’re cycling through tabs or sifting through messaging channels. Forty-five percent say such context switching makes them less productive.  

The impact of all this? According to the Harvard Business Review, 89% of workers say their work life is becoming more difficult. Meantime, 70% believe there could be more efficient ways of using technology to get work done, according to the new Qatalog research.

Image: iStock

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