In this age of digital everything, at what point do workers get overwhelmed? A new survey suggests that US employees may be approaching the tipping point.
The survey, The State of Workplace Productivity Report from talent management app provider Cornerstone OnDemand in collaboration with global insights firm Kelton, looks at the attitudes of employees about technology in the workplace and whether that technology is helping them get their work done. It categorizes respondents as Millennials (18-32 years old), Gen X (33-48), Baby Boomers (49-67), and Traditionalists (69+), while Gen X, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists are collectively described as Older Generations.
To the surprise of no one who feels that weekends have become a thing of the past, the survey finds that employees are in various states of being overwhelmed.
One might expect that the older workers are those most experiencing overload, and that the younger Millennials are better evolved to accommodate such a flood of information. But the survey found that 41 percent of Millennials feel they suffer from information overload, compared to only 31 percent of Older Generations.
Technology overload also showed a similar split, with 38 percent of Millennials feeling overburdened, compared to only 21 percent from the Older Generations. Similarly, an unexpected 60 percent of Millennials said they preferred to collaborate in person compared to the 34 percent of other workers who prefer online collaboration, plus 6 percent who chose phone or video conferencing.
About 58 percent of Millennials experienced work overload, roughly 10 percent more than any of the other age categories.
From the report, "The State of Workplace Productivity"
More respondents in the four age groups felt there was “about the right amount” of collaboration in the workplace. Given the growing popularity of collaborative tools, and the amount of time they can require from each employee to simply keep up with the flow, this speaks to the usefulness of time spent.
The top four motivators for collaboration were, in order, positive recognition of “the input I share,” “encouragement from senior staff” and “ability to easily share input with different departments or offices.”
Wearable devices, such as smart watches or Google Glass, are just beginning to appear, so the survey asked about them. The percentage of each group that was willing to use a wearable if it helped them do their job better ranged from 50 percent among Baby Boomers to 66 percent for Millennials. However, the report didn’t define wearables or the relevant functions.
The survey also reinforced that the Bring-Your-Own-Device trend is here to stay, with 56 percent of Millennials choosing to bring their own devices versus 39, 44 and 36 percent of the Older Generations, Gen X and Baby Boomers, respectively. Additionally, nearly 40 percent of employees say they are likely to buy some of the apps they’ll use for work.
The survey raises some key and useful questions as companies get deeper into information streams, analytics, technology, collaboration and other time- and resource- consuming trends. However, one wishes it had gone into more depth and analysis about some of the information it started to reveal.
For instance, what kind of information or technology is creating the overload for employees? Is it because of so much email, or too many IMs, a deluge of documents, or … ? Is it due to mobile technologies’ seemingly infinite number of apps to learn, or Windows 8’s change to its basic interaction style, or …. ?
What Kind of Collaboration?
Similarly, when workers say they have “about the right amount” of collaboration, how much does that represent? Collaborative environments differ dramatically among businesses. When the survey asks about online collaboration, what kind of online collaboration are we discussing -- IMs, old-fashioned intranets, or new-fashioned social intranets?
And so on. Info or tech overload, and collaboration, are among the most interesting new trends to explore, since both raise questions about whether, in the cause of helping workers, tech solutions are actually frustrating workers.
The survey, conducted in mid-August, used an email invitation and an online survey to query 1029 employed Americans.