Bless all this technology we have in our workplaces today … and pass the aspirin.
It seems the Great Information Age – which allows information to be transferred from one person to the next with alarming ease – is creating one giant headache for workers. The free-flow of information has gotten so bad that it is beginning to affect the quality of work, according to 62 percent of white-collar workers polled in five countries by the information service LexisNexis.
Workers complained there is so much information being passed their way that they often spend at least half the workday sorting through the information and that has made it increasingly difficult to focus on their work.
“Workers across the globe are just about managing to keep their heads above water in a rising tide of information,” says Michael Walsh, chief executive of U.S. Legal Markets, LexisNexis. “The results of this survey reveal not just how widespread the problem is, but also the very real impact that information overload has on professionals’ productivity and the bottom line.”
The problem is so pervasive and overload so real that white-collar workers think they are approaching an “information breaking point.”
The LexisNexis survey was conducted of 1,700 workers in the United States, China, South Africa, United Kingdom, and Australia earlier this year. Workers from all five countries noted that this swamp of information shows no sign of abating and is taking a psychological toll on them. Fifty-two percent of the white-collar workers say they feel demoralized when they can’t manage all the information that comes their way at work.
Workers say that between one-third and one-half of the information they receive on a daily basis is not important to them getting their work done. But because they have to evaluate all the information that crosses their desks, they suffer productivity lapses because of that lost time.
Approximately three-quarters of the workers in the United States say that while search engines give them access to huge amounts of information, they don’t help them prioritize it for their professional needs. Ninety one percent of the U.S. workers admit to deleting or discarding work information without fully reading it. Workers express concern that, while they have asked for relief from this information overload from their employers, it has been slow coming.
In China, 62 percent of the workers say their employers have provided information management technology specifically for this problem, while only 25 percent of U.S. workers say their companies have done this. In addition, 26 percent of Chinese white-collar workers say their employers have adopted “email free days or times” compared to only 6 percent of U.S. workers.
“Employers need to do more than simply toss their workers a life preserver and hope for the best,” Walsh says. “They need to invest in practical solutions. Employers who take the initiative and invest in customized technology, tools and training can avoid significant costs in lost productivity. In fact, businesses that really come to grips with this problem could gain a competitive advantage over companies that do not.”
Once again, it is the bottom line that most often motivates employers to make dramatic changes in how they do business. The LexisNexis study shows the dangers that are looming for employers so it is now up to them to leap into action.