Businessman feeling overwhelmed at work, with several varying hands holding different (technologies, phone, digital watch, tablet, etc.) in his face.
PHOTO: Shutterstock

The good news is that Dan Staley, Global HR Technology Leader at PwC doesn’t think you are crazy. Tech overload is real, employees are being inundated with new technology on a regular basis, leading them to feel overwhelmed. The bad news is that Staley doesn't see this changing.

It used to be that a company would roll out big deployments one at a time, and take a break in between with smaller deployments, he said. But companies are no longer resting between deployments. “With the pace of change expected of companies, new technology constantly being introduced is something we have to get used to,” he said. However, “getting a new technology every single week can be exhausting,” he said. 

The Overwhelmed Employee

Technology and too much access have turned workers into “overwhelmed” employees, according to a Deloitte report that is a few years old, but still relevant to today’s workplace. After canvassing the views of more than 2,500 business and HR leaders in 94 countries, Deloitte researchers found that the overwhelmed employee is a global business concern. Further, while two-thirds of leaders recognized the imperative to change, almost half said they were “not ready” to deal with it. A more recent study by PwC found that nearly half of employees in a supervisory role (46%) say they feel overwhelmed by technology at work, and 61% say they spend more time getting technology to work than they’d like.

The tech overload problem is even further exacerbated by the increasingly blurred line in the delicate balancing act of work and life. 

Our "always-on" culture plays a role in employees becoming overly distracted by the numerous tools that need to be adopted and utilized, said Dane Amyot, managing director of bountiXP. “This means that our employees experience increased productivity through tech-enabled work environments, but it has also resulted in employees taking less time for breaks and working on weekends. They’re not switching off, recharging those batteries and therefore can result in a less productive workforce that you had initially intended.”

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A Better Experience

But that is not the end of the story, or at least it shouldn’t be. Companies can take steps to make technology easier for workers to consume in order to give them a better experience, Staley said. “One big disconnect we see is a lack of understanding and lack of communication between management and employees. How often does the head of sales enter a sales order in a Salesforce automation system? I don’t think managers do enough time in the field, getting a ‘day in the life’ experience before a tech fix is deployed,” he said.

Companies also need to make a better effort to involve the impacted workforce at all levels, early in the process and throughout the process, Staley continued. “They need representation.” In addition, companies must establish a feedback loop for employees about the new technology, he said. “If you do these three things you will see a better connection between employees and technology,” he said. 

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Managers Intercede

Some companies are taking other steps, as well, to prevent tech overload from affecting productivity. Gustavo Carvalho, CMO of Copahost, has been with the marketing and IT company for 15 years and in his experience, tech overload is very real and happens often. “In our company, we always try to monitor productivity. Whenever we see a decline, we try to talk to employees personally to check if there is a tech overload interference,” he said. “This way we can find alternatives to solve it.”

Managers should also learn to be more selective in the technology they deploy, said Olga Mykhoparkina, CMO at Chanty. “The best solution is quality over quantity. Choose a few apps that get most of your work done, instead of rolling out 20 apps that do everything,” she said. 

Organizations should consider not only the benefits, such as centralization of data for business analytics or acceleration of completing routine tasks, but should take into account the context in which this technology will work, said Ilia Sotnikov, VP of product management at Netwrix. To that end, he said the following questions should be asked and answered: 

  • Why do we need this technology? 
  • How will its benefits offset potential costs and time needed to teach employees how to use new technology? 
  • Will we break processes that already work? 
  • Are employees tech-savvy enough for this new technology? 

Indeed, asking these questions will not only help keep employees from being overwhelmed, but might also save a company from deploying unnecessary technology.