The way we communicate at work is changing - but in many workplaces, the rules of digital engagement haven’t kept up. Too often our digital communications cause interruptions, extra work, unnecessary delays, or lost information.

Digital Workplace Disruption

Consider this:

  • The average worker is interrupted or switches tasks every 3 minutes and 5 seconds. And it typically takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back where they left off. (This according to research from the University of California, Irvine).
  • Harvard Business Review points out that the typical employee spends 19% of their time looking for information that they need to get their job done - information tucked away in email, network folders, intranets and CMS solutions, CRM and ERP software, or cloud file sharing apps.

For all of the benefits of transforming into digital workplaces, we are also making it easier than ever to interrupt people, mis-file information, and have teams of people focusing on problems that should only require the efforts of a few. The problem has grown so bad that workers can spend more than 6 hours a day dealing with the madness.

Take the Digital Workplace Self-Test

Digital Disruption Test

Check this with your own experience - in the next week, note how many times each of the following things happen to you.

  • You’re interrupted by an instant message, call, text, email, social post or office drop-in that causes you to stop what you’re doing, deal with the question, and then take the time to pick back up where you left off. And, in hindsight, it was a non-urgent issue that could have waited.
  • You need a vital piece of information to complete a task. Maybe it’s an email, a document, a note about a client, or an analysis of internal data. And it takes a frustratingly long time to find it. Maybe you interrupt someone else to ask them to find it, or you find an old version, or you have to re-create something from scratch that you know is stored out there somewhere.
  • You get an email sent to multiple people. It’s unclear if you should take action, or if the ball is in someone else’s court. Maybe you start to respond only to find out that someone else is already handling it. Or maybe it is a thread that you receive multiple emails for - and it is almost completely irrelevant for you.
  • You start work on a task and, while working on it, you have to turn to the web, intranet, email or CRM solution for information. When you open the app you’re distracted by something else you see. Some time later you find yourself thinking, “why was I in here again?” And you have to re-orient yourself back to your original task.

All of these interruptions, distractions and lost information are costing us. Research shows that human attention spans have declined from 12 seconds to under 8 seconds in the last decade. That’s dangerous - the ability to focus on a task for a prolonged period is critical for innovation, creativity, risk management and problem solving.

The cost is real for businesses too. Lost productivity is costing companies as much as 900,000 hours of labor for every 1,000 employees! Imagine if you could give your people 10% or 20% of their time back. How would employee engagement improve? What would the impact on productivity, efficiency, innovation and customer satisfaction be?

The transformation to a digital workplace superhighway for many companies, is looking more like a step back into the Wild West. This is something that should be expected - significant transformations always bring some element of chaos before a new normal is established. But companies with no strategy to move to a new level of productivity may find themselves permanently stuck in a state of disruption.

Digital Workplace Planning

Do you have a plan in place to bring order to the digital chaos?

Digital Workplace Plan Governance Etiquette

Here are the components to consider for an effective digital workplace change management plan:

  • Governance: If the Wild West had remained “every person for themselves” it never would have been transformed into cities full of productive businesses. Smart governance that balanced rapid progress with clear rules for everything from building code to contract law was critical. Just like the physical workplace, your digital workplace needs governance.
  • Digital Workplace Etiquette: Workplace etiquette must evolve to align with all of our new digital communication tools. Teams need to learn how to interrupt only for critical needs, file information correctly, use the right communication channel for a given task, and keep problem solving to the appropriate individuals.
  • Digital Time Management: Etiquette is focused on helping our co-workers to be more productive; time management is focused on helping ourselves to be more productive. Digital tools are making it more challenging for individuals to manage their time. Correcting this problem requires a combination of training, self-discipline and management support. Outdated time management practices that worked just 10 years ago need to be upgraded.
  • Transformation Planning: When a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, it doesn’t become a caterpillar with wings. Everything about it changes. Foods that were nourishing to a caterpillar are poison to a butterfly. Companies that have successfully transformed know this to be true - the way the people in that company think about their work, their role and the customers that they exist to serve all changes. There is engagement at every level of the company. It doesn’t happen by accident - you can’t install new technology and provide training and expect transformation. It is always the result of intentional planning, assessment, and constant course correction. It requires engagement, not just buy-in, at every level.

At C5 Insight, our mission is to help you transform into a people-centric digital workplace. Click here to reach out to open a conversation about building a better digital workplace.