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When the pandemic first began, many employers turned to technology to keep employees connected and engaged. Ironically, the very technology to keep employees productive has led to “app-athetic” employees. It turns out more apps isn’t always the key to productivity. Sometimes it can make work hours even less efficient.
According to one study, Work Your Way, conducted by Citrix, 64 percent of those surveyed said they are using more communication and collaboration tools than they were during the pandemic and more than 70 percent said it was making work more complex. The study’s results reflect other similar studies being conducted throughout the global work sphere. One UK report showed that 68 percent of employees receive so many notifications that it actually keeps them from working. In fact 22, percent say they never spend an entire day on actual work due to so many distractions from messaging apps, collaboration tools, and emails.
Far and wide, there is a growing trend: employees working longer hours with lower productivity and less work-life balance. What’s the answer?
Digital Transformation and Working from Home: A Match Made in Heaven—Almost
While it’s true that the pandemic’s shift to working from home helped accelerate many companies’ digital transformation efforts, it’s also true that too much of any good thing can be—well—bad. With Slack (Salesforce), Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Webex (Cisco) and so many other apps being used to keep employees connected, it’s easy to see why employees are frustrated and overwhelmed. So, what can businesses do to get their employees back on track?
1) Take a strategic look at your app sprawl—and contain it. The early months of the pandemic left businesses scrambling to keep employees connected. That meant adopting apps in an ad hoc fashion, rather than taking a strategic look at which apps they needed, maximizing the tools they offer, and adopting consistent standards for usage throughout the enterprise. More than a year later, it’s time to stop the madness. Carve out time to carefully assess each of the communication and collaboration apps your employees are using, what capabilities they hold, and start chopping away the ones that are redundant or unnecessary altogether.
2) Set clear goals for what you want your apps to do. One recent study showed that 70 percent of employees said using technology to find the information they needed was time-consuming, with the average employee spending an hour per day simply looking for the information they need in various apps, message boards, and collaboration tools. Here’s the thing: if your collaboration tools are making it hard to work, they’re not working. So, determine which information belongs in an app and which belongs elsewhere—the Intranet, bulletin boards, or even good old-fashioned printed resources.
3) Consider using a digital workspace software platform. Yes, it’s another app, and I list it third for a reason. Digital workspace platforms work to make the complex and chaotic workspaces of today easier to manage for employees. Basically, they are cloud-based platforms that contain all of the apps, tools, data, and collaboration spaces employees use in one location that can be accessed anywhere, at any time. Thus, once you do the hard work of trimming down your app sprawl and determining which apps are truly valuable to your teams, you can turn to a digital workspace platform to make those apps even easier to access and use. According to the Work Your Way survey, 72 percent of respondents said their digital workspace software platform improved productivity, and 77 percent said it also aided collaboration.
4) Don’t Forget Digital Adoption. I recently shared some thoughts here on Forbes about the importance of investing in digital adoption platforms such as WalkMe to help better understand how technology investments are being utilized throughout the enterprise. I believe these tools have an important role to play in minimizing app fatigue and strengthening the way companies can realize returns from the implementation of software and technology throughout the organization.
5) Use common sense. Employees—especially those who have been and will continue to work from home—are finding it increasingly challenging to delineate home and work. So, use common sense. If you sense your employees are burning out, consider turning off push notifications, creating “core hours” for work, and encouraging them to take a break from the chaos. After all, an unproductive team isn’t going to be good for your business. The overall health of your team must always come first.
Here’s the thing: app sprawl / app stress / app obsession isn’t a new problem. The pandemic may have made it worse, but even back in 2018, research showed that nearly 70 percent of employees wasted a month every year on workplace apps. It’s shocking, but it’s also a clear wake-up call. Working from home isn’t going away anytime soon. The Work Your Way survey showed almost 90 percent of respondents want the flexibility to keep working from home after the pandemic is finally over. As we move through the next year, may we all remember: more apps is not always better—not for security, not for efficiency, and not for employee mental health.
Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.