January 24, 2017
The rise of mobile and cloud services has a dark side, and it’s not what you think. With 24/7 connectivity, employees never fully disconnect from work. After an initial honeymoon period in which employees are able to get more done, this constant connectivity ultimately undermines their productivity. Text messages, tweets, Snapchats, phone calls, emails—every communication is an interruption of the employee’s concentration.
Constantly shifting between tasks or attempting to multitask takes a heavy toll on employees. Studies have shown that the brain can only concentrate on one task at a time. Requiring it to switch rapidly from one task to another will, over time, cause mental overload and exhaustion.
The effects of multitasking are widespread. In a Deloitte study of 2,500 business and HR leaders in 94 countries, 65% of participants reported “overwhelmed employees” as an “urgent” concern. A 2015 American Management Association study, “Stress Management and Mindfulness in the Workplace,” found that more than half of organizations suffer from above-average stress levels. The same study found that very few leaders are equipped to effectively manage stressed-out employees.
Overloaded and overwhelmed
Worse, several national studies, such as one by the Families and Work Institute of more than 1,000 Americans, have indicated that more than half of the U.S. workforce is burned out and at a breaking point. Workplace stress not only decreases productivity, it increases absenteeism, illness, healthcare expenditures, and turnover.
Stress also plays a role in how motivated employees feel to work hard for a company. The Towers Watson “2014 Global Workforce Study,” which surveyed more than 32,000 workers, revealed that more than half of people who report high stress are disengaged from their work—51% reported feeling disengaged, compared with 9% who said they felt engaged. The survey also reported that the lower the stress level of employees, the more likely they are to be engaged in the workplace, with 57% being highly engaged and only 8% in the disengaged group. This is not a work-life balance issue. It’s a management issue, and smart organizations are catching on.
AMA’s “Stress Management and Mindfulness in the Workplace” study showed that as much as 49% of organizations are offering employees training to battle workplace overload. Xerox’s research report “Working Well: A Global Survey of Workforce Wellbeing Strategies,” issued by the company in November, found that while only 33% of organizations report a strong culture of well-being, almost 90% aspire to this, with increased productivity being cited as one of the primary reasons.
“Healthy, productive employees are the lifeblood of a company,” said John Gentry, president, Xerox HR Services, in announcing the release of the report. “In the past, the thought that healthy workers meant productive workers was somewhat of a theory. Today with aggregate data and analytics, there is a much stronger case for return on investment.”