Twenty years ago, experts were predicting that computers would eventually replace many existing jobs in the workforce, as they would eliminate the need for so many workers to process reports, type memos, and travel across the country for meetings that could be handled remotely. Computers have, in fact, provided us access to information that was unimaginable twenty years ago. So why aren’t we more productive?
Skype has made it easy to have meetings without ever leaving our desk. Smart phones allow us to check our e-mail everywhere, ensuring not a second of the day is wasted. We should be getting more done in a day than our 1900s counterparts, yet we aren’t. Experts believe the reason for that is information overload.
Mindjet illustrated the problem in an infographic titled “Reigning in the Information Deluge.” The infographic points to a study that found that more than half of U.S. workers admit that they are sometimes unable to work due to the massive amount of information presented to them each day. And in fact, more could be suffering than your workers’ productivity. A Time magazine article revealed that data overload can result in depression. The constant access information, the article states, creates feelings of stress, sleeplessness, and depression in young adults.
Instead of enjoying a peaceful, calming moment enjoying the environment, experts say, people are now attached to their mobile devices, constantly checking e-mail and hanging out on social networking sites. This behavior keeps people from mentally refreshing and leaves them constantly drained.
The issue is, when a person gets too much information, his or her brain simply shuts down. Our brains aren’t wired to process that much information, Mindjet explained on its blog. Therefore when presented with too much, a person either learns to extract only what he or she needs or they begin to discard the entire thing altogether.
In fact, 91% of respondents admit to being presented to work-related information that they discard without reading all of it, Mindjet pointed out. With our minds constantly being bombarded with news, e-mails, and other information we may or may not need, that shutdown may be what’s best for us. A disorder called Information Fatigue Syndrome has been identified. It causes workers to feel fatigue and anxiety as workers feel this need to be constantly “plugged in.”
Added to that, the average worker wastes more than two hours per day, mostly online, a study by America Online and Salary.com found. While these two hours also included chatting with fellow workers and personal phone calls, almost forty-five percent of this wasted time was spent online. As Facebook and Twitter have become more addictive to older generations, this problem has likely gotten worse for businesses. Some companies block social media sites, but employers can’t block all personal sites and your workers will likely find a way to waste time, no matter how many sites you block.
If you feel your workers may be suffering from information overload, try an exercise where everyone unplugs for the afternoon and sits around the conference table brainstorming ideas. As a manager, learn to only send information to employees who need it, and let your employees know where new assignments fall on their priority lists. If you overburden your employees, they will eventually burn out, which won’t help your company at all in the long run.