Technology means we can communicate more than ever before but the ‘always on’ nature of the modern workplace is affecting productivity and employee wellbeing. Is it time for a digital detox?
The internet, intranet, Yammer, Snapchat, news feeds, email, WhatsApp, Instagram…the list goes on. The sheer volume of digital channels available for both external and internal communication is mind-boggling.
But the landslide of information we receive every day could be having a counterproductive effect, stressing us out and dividing our time between so many tasks that we’re failing to deal with them effectively.
Because while technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, the human brain still takes time to process and respond to all this information, subjecting us to information overload.
The term is attributed to futurologist Alvin Toffler, who in 1970 was already predicting the effect of modern technology and the digital revolution on society. Today, we use it to describe trying to deal with more information than we’re are able to process, which can result in distraction, delayed decision making or making the wrong decision entirely, which is not good news for business.
Professor Daniel Levitin, a McGill University professor and author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, explains it in grocery terms: “In 1976, there were 9,000 products in the average grocery store; now it’s ballooned to 40,000 products. And yet most of us can get almost all our shopping done in just 150 items, so you’re having to ignore tens of thousands of items every time you go shopping,” he says.
In an age when addiction to online gaming has become a recognised medical condition and entire websites are dedicated to ‘logging off’, one could argue that companies have a duty of care to make sure employees are not under pressure to be constantly online, responding to emails at midnight or straining to read a long report on a small screen on the train home.
To be properly productive, we mere mortals need about 20 minutes to focus on the task at hand. Yet on average, a desk-based worker will receive around 100 emails and send around 40 – a day. Not to mention all the other social and digital channels used to communicate to employees, demanding their time and attention as they jump between them.
All this multi-tasking is doing us no good – something recently recognised by the techiest of tech companies, Apple. At its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple announced a series of controls that will allow iOS users to monitor how much time they spend on devices, set time limits on app usage and control the distraction of notifications. Google has developed a similar tool for Android.
If we’ve not already taken up too much of your time, try out these 10 tips for enouraging concentration, boosting productivity and digitally detoxing your workforce: