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PHOTO: Yi Liu

The illusion of productivity is a powerful force. It seems like every week we see the release of new apps designed to enhance workplace productivity, improve workflow and combine your email inbox with other apps. It's easy to assume that more tools equals more productivity. However, a 2017 harmon.ie survey found information and app overload at work is an increasing cause of frustration for over 43% of employees. This phenomenon is aptly called app fatigue.

How often do you stop and think about the effects of the daily deluge of apps in your workplace?

Effect 1: Decreased Productivity

Yes, you read that correctly: app fatigue at work is killing employee productivity. The average employee in 2018 used 28 different apps just to complete basic tasks, and almost three-quarters of employees surveyed in 2017 reported working with at least five apps open simultaneously. Additionally, according to the 2018 research from RingCentral, most workers toggle between apps up to 10 times every hour, which means that companies are losing up to 32 days of productive work per employee every year.

Can you afford to miss out on a month of productive work every year?

Related Article: Is the Solution to Information Overload More Technology?

Effect 2: Stressed-Out Employees

Besides hurting overall productivity, app fatigue also damages employee engagement, leaving workers consistently overwhelmed, aggravated and, well, fatigued.

To further complicate the situation, most workers are expected to respond to new communications and notifications on workplace apps immediately, which creates even more confusion and interruptions throughout the day on top of the existing app fatigue. Looking at it this way, it's really no surprise that when surveyed, a large percentage of workers responded that they would prefer to do household chores, pay bills, deal with an insurance company, manage junk mail or clean out spam emails rather than navigate between workplace apps.

Related Article: Providing Flexibility in Workplace Tools Doesn't Mean It's a Free-for-All

Effect 3: Compromised Security

Contrary to popular belief, IT departments don't exist to slow things down in the workplace. Those valuable teams exist in part to prevent security breaches that can cost a company money, time and a good reputation.

So, generally, the IT department is responsible for researching which apps to use in the workplace and distributing those apps, ensuring that each one won't create or expose security vulnerabilities.

However, app fatigue is leading many employees to venture away from the apps chosen by the IT department in hopes of increasing their productivity. In fact, 48% of workers surveyed in 2017 were using apps not distributed by IT, including favorites like note-taking apps, WhatsApp and Dropbox.

Related Article: Too Many Apps: The New World of Information Overload

Is There a Solution for App Fatigue?

If you asked the employees surveyed by RingCentral, 66% of them would tell you that using a single platform for all workplace communications would help them achieve a better workflow, increase their productivity and reduce feelings of chaos at work. Since only 60% of an average employee's time at work is spent on productive tasks, why not try to improve that statistic by pushing for a unified platform in your organization?

When choosing a platform or partner apps, consider these tips:

  • Encourage IT and HR departments to team up. With their expertise in technology and communication, respectively, these groups have the greatest chance of choosing a platform that will benefit all employees.
  • Keep security tight. Make sure employees don't have to manage multiple passwords to access workplace apps. When workers leave the company, revoke access to their workplace apps as soon as possible to mitigate security risks.
  • Don't micromanage. While you don't want employees using apps that compromise security, you also don't want to restrict them from exploring new apps that could help others. Consider developing a list of best practices for using unfamiliar apps, or a list of practices to help workers recommend new apps to IT and HR.

Are you seeing the effects of app fatigue at your workplace? If so, you have no time to waste in reassessing the way you're using productivity tools.