Throughout my career, I have worked with high performing teams whose efforts positively contributed to the company’s bottom line. I’ve noticed how employees are working on more devices, more applications and taking multitasking to extremes. We have become a hyper-intensive workforce, overworked and dependent on our digital devices and applications.

A recent Microsoft survey brought to light the “productivity paradox”. The increased adoption of digital technologies has not delivered those big gains in worker productivity everyone expected. In fact, technology leads workers into further distractions and makes businesses less productive and that negatively impact company revenues and growth.

So, have the advances of technology improved our productivity and at what costs?

Multitasking has risen to new forms with context switching as workers jump from one task to another unrelated task, before the first task is completed. It may be hours before the first task is addressed. Research supports that individuals spend an average of just 1 minute and 15 seconds on a task before being interrupted and it takes an average of 25 minutes to resume a task after being interrupted. As a result, it takes 50% longer to accomplish a single task and perhaps, increases potential error rates by 50%.

Impact on productivity and lost time adds up. White collar workers can lose up to 40% or 16 hours per week of productivity due to multitasking and switching between multiple software applications, resulting in a cumulative corporate loss of $450 billion per year.

Tool management is another lost time concern. In addition to switching between tools and applications, workers further waste time using tools that accomplish the same task. A Hubspot Research survey found that 82% of respondents said they lose up to an hour a day managing tools for a total of five hours per week of lost productivity.

The biggest productivity challenge workers and executives face is finding information quickly and easily across applications, folders and emails. With the deluge of incoming digital data, processing and managing this data increases in complexity especially across multiple devices.

IDC research found that knowledge workers spend an average of 2.5 hours per day, or roughly 30% of the workday searching through apps and tools to find the information they need to perform their job functions. Searching for emails and managing inboxes results in another critical time and productivity hit. White collar workers spend up to 3.2 hours per day on work-related emails. Knowledge workers, those individuals immersed in data, can lose up to 5.7 hours per day or 71% productivity throughout the week on finding information, multitasking, and responding to work emails.

Our productivity levels have fallen rather than increased with new technologies. Lost time is spent switching between applications, managing emails and searching for information. Costs incur from the individual’s lost hours. Add in the lost hours of your entire workforce and companies begin to realize the impact to their business.

However, there is a hope for a highly effective workplace. Companies will need to focus on their employees, understand their behaviors and provide them with the tools and training. In the future, work environments are ever changing; over half of a company’s workforce will be remote and heavily dependent on their mobile devices. People will embrace other ways of communicating beyond email.

Employers will have to embrace greater use of content and workstream collaboration technologies that integrate today’s multitude of “productivity” applications into a new common experience layer that may well become the ‘new desktop’ for improved productivity, efficiencies and time/cost savings.

Peter Jackson


Original story published on LinkedIn by Peter Jackson