Are Your Digital Workplace Tools Empowering Or Distracting?
Did you know the average team uses six approaches and four or more tools to support collaboration? That's just at work.
Now, picture all the apps on your phone. Your tablet. Your laptop. And your smart TV.
On an average day, we all use dozens of tools and applications for a variety of different reasons. All of the technology we have literally at our fingertips must make us more productive, right? Not necessarily.
To thrive in the digital workplace of the future, organizations must cut through the noise and invest in tools that empower, rather than distract. In this post, we'll cover some common causes of distraction, share tips you can use to better equip your team members for success, and help you determine whether your current toolset is working for you or against you.
Common Causes of Digital Distractions at Work
Distractions have always been part of the work experience, but never in the way they are now. When our parents and grandparents went to work, they clocked in at 8:30 and left their responsibilities at the door at 5:00. Their workplace distractions were limited to coffee or smoke breaks and water cooler talk.
Today? With the click of a button, you can take your pick of millions of distractions. From social media to email and even cat videos, there's no shortage of temptations out there for the employee who's looking for reasons and ways to procrastinate.
But aside from all the ways your team members might choose to fill their time with activities other than work, they're likely forced to use their time in ways that aren't exactly productive. Why? Because of disjointed tools and technology.
Here are the top five causes of technology distractions at work:
1. Shiny Object Syndrome - It's so tempting to want to keep up with the latest and greatest tech tools. After all, what will your competitors or customers think if you don't? Maybe a better question to ask before investing in new technology is how will this tool help my employees better serve our customers?
"Business owners can all too easily fall prey to a severe case of Shiny Object Syndrome - constantly bunny hopping from one tool to the next because they heard it was the new thing to use," says Neil Roach, former IT leader, now freelancer for Boxroom Office. "That's without even factoring in the costs involved. For employees, this can lead to them getting lost in constantly changing SOPs, interfaces, and logins."
And in the rush to quickly implement the next shiny object, leaders often fail to get employees up to speed, which brings us to distraction number two.
2. Inadequate Training - Digital literacy has become a critical skill for today's employees, but the knowledge gaps are still vast. For employees who aren't well versed in the latest technology, the digital workplace can become a source of anxiety.
"Not all of your employees are tech-savvy, and if they don't feel confident using your tools, they may suffer from work-related stress," says Sonya Schwartz, Founder of Her Norm. "The result? Lower productivity."
In addition to a revolving door of new tools and a lack of proper training, employees are also faced with an overwhelming number of messages within those disparate tools, which brings us to the next common source of distractions.
3. Too Many Notifications - Ping, ping, ping. We all know how it feels when your phone is inundated with notifications. But we may be underestimating the impacts, says Vivek Ranjan, Founder of Makerflow.
"I believe that when used ineffectively, technology can become a huge source of distraction for today's knowledge workers. Concentration has been deemed as the 21st century's superpower, and the ability to do deep, focussed work is going to be a differentiating factor for success for workers," he says. "The notifications and pings from these tools lead to interruption-driven schedules. And I think that hinders us from providing a high quality work product. This, in turn, affects job satisfaction and work-life balance."
In addition to the burnout that many employees experience due to technology overwhelm, concerns around automation are another real concern.
4. Inflexible Automation - AI and automation have the incredible potential to make employees more productive, but when harnessed improperly, these tools can have the opposite effect. If your automated processes aren't flexible enough to allow employees to solve problems creatively, then they're little more than distractions and roadblocks.
"Digital tools, especially automation, have tremendous potential to both empower and disempower, and it falls on the organization implementing them to appreciate the difference," says Nathan Binford, VP of Marketing at MarketChorus. "Our most intelligent technologies still fall far short of the brainpower of the average human being. There's a big difference between being good at calculating math quickly and being good at solving real-world problems. Software is excellent at processing data but ill-equipped to make intelligent choices."
It's important not to lose sight of the humanness of it all. Though technology enables workforces to operate from anywhere, social connection is still critical, which is why distraction number five is a real concern.
5. Social Isolation - Over the past six months, we've all experienced some degree of social isolation. And while video has helped us stay connected, the digital workplace can still be lonely at times.
"Some employees need personal face to face interaction to be more productive; the loss of regular physical interactions is limiting for many people, says Sonya Schwartz, Founder of Her Norm. "It's important to find ways to foster meaningful connections, so team members don't become too siloed."
So, what can employers do to combat some of these common distractions and make workplace tools a source of empowerment instead? Here are three ideas.
3 Ways Companies Can Use Digital Workplace Tools to Empower Rather Than Distract
Identifying the potential source of a problem is the first step to fixing it. The next step requires acting on that knowledge. Based on the top five sources of digital distraction at work, here are three things companies can do to use technology as a source of empowerment.
1. Give Employees the Data & Freedom to Make Better Decisions - Are you equipping your employees to make the best decisions on behalf of your customers? Thanks to technology, we have more data than ever. The companies that harness that data are poised for success in today's digital workplace.
"Tools are made to be used by people, not to tell people what to do. When used to empower employees, digital automation increases efficiency, reduces errors, scales up productivity, and may surface insights that would be missed otherwise," says Nathan Binford, VP of Marketing at MarketChorus. "When used oppressively to dictate, monitor, or control employee activity, digital tools may actually harm efficiency, create friction, and generally breed malcontent among generally honest and hard-working employees."
2. Allow Employees to Control Their Schedule - Perhaps the biggest perk of the digital workplace is that employees can work anytime, anywhere. Use this to your advantage to help boost engagement and productivity. Ditching the normal 8:30-5:30 day may be the easiest solution.
"With tools like automated time tracking, employees know how to budget their time on how they will tackle particular tasks that they need to do," says Sonya Schwartz, Founder of Her Norm. "Give your employees a chance to choose their own work schedule. Assign them to a schedule during the times of day when they feel most productive."
3. Promote Better, More Efficient Collaboration - Asynchronous tools like team chat allow employees to keep one another in the loop without interrupting deep work or flooding the calendar with unnecessary meetings.
Elon Musk follows this advice with his team at Tesla and had this to say.
"Whenever possible I try to communicate asynchronously."
Tools like 8x8 Work make this incredibly easy and seamless.
Bringing It All Together
The digital workplace is here to stay, and businesses that equip their employees to operate in this new normal will be in the best position for growth in 2021 and beyond. By eliminating distractions and empowering employees to be more productive, companies will see higher employee engagement, better team collaboration, and improved customer experiences.
With 8x8's all-in-one cloud communications platform, you can combine phone, team chat, video, and contact center analytics for a seamless experience. No more tool switching. Fewer distractions. Less siloed communication. Learn more about how you can enable comprehensive comminications for your business.