Email, video and messaging apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams make it possible to easily collaborate with co-workers, no matter what time zone (or country) they happen to be in. And access to mobile versions of the same apps means that colleagues can quickly respond to a DM, follow a group conversation or make a quick edit to file at virtually any time.
But with that ease of use comes a problem: workers can become overwhelmed by a barrage of notifications from colleagues before the workday begins, during it, and after it should be over. And that’s not good for productivity or distracted workers’ stress levels.
Research from UC Irvine has shown it can take more than 20 minutes to become immersed in a task after an interruption, while a different study claims that multitasking can reduce productivity by 40%. The increased collaborative workload can even lead to burnout — something the World Health Organization recently recognized as an occupational phenomenon — with the always-on nature of modern communications a contributing factor, according to Harvard Business Review research.
Gartner analyst Craig Roth has noted in recent blog posts that information overload is a tricky problem with plenty of blame to go around, whether it be managers with inflated expectations, corporate IT that deploys overlapping tools, or the vendors that create apps so adept at grabbing our attention.