Respond message overload in the Workplace: 6 Solutions
Seeing the interconnected nature of today’s workplace it has become a priority to manage a large volume of information about businesses. The spike in remote working made the flow of information via digital channels only, which makes the response message overload. If we look at the stats, the communication channels as well as documents, and collaboration tools created to prevent the clutter and make knowledge sharing easier and more manageable.
Moreover, in the absence of policies, strategies, and reasonable solutions the employees are now getting overwhelmed with the overflow of information. It defeats the purpose of the global village where everything is online and swift. It also hinders the employee’s productivity and sets in motion a sense of frustration. It directly affects the business performance, this situation is usually referred to as information overload or intoxication.
First things first, what is information overload?
If we put it simply, information overload refers to the ample amount of information given to employees while performing tasks. Looking deep into the roots the term was first coined in Bertram Gross’s 1964 book “The Managing of Organizations”. According to Gross, the overload occurs when the flow of information is more than the capacity of the employee, it causes an imbalance and inability to process thus reducing the credibility of decisions made.
Throughout history, information overload has always been a concern for all public and private organizations. Or we can say that the technological boom increased the circulation of data over the last decade. Previously, people/employees didn’t have much information online at their fingertips, plus the mainstream source of information was printing or electronic media. People had to go through a massive amount of papers and catalogs to find what they are looking for. In this situation, people are far from making ideal decisions as it impacts overall productivity and makes them more occupied with interpretation.
The new wave of technology in both the public and personal space has reduced our dependency on paper. It made it easy to store, locate, feed, and share information in the digital arena. The worldwide revolution made it accessible and provided a lot of flexibility in today’s time that would otherwise have been difficult.
What are the main factors of information overload?
Joseph Ruff published an article in “The Harvard Graduate School of Education‟s Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA)” named “Information Overload: Causes, Symptoms, and Solution”, he credited information overload with five aspects: technology, information, people, process, and institutions. All of the factors constantly overlap making it difficult for businesses to operate and work efficiently.
Some major sign of work overload is that employees start to resent their workplace rather than be productive at the workplace. They feel stressed and completely worn out, this kind of unhealthy lifestyle can negatively affect the well-being and mental health of employees which adds to lousy work. Here are some common signs of work overload:
- Overwhelmed situation
- Flustered environment
- Poor quality work
- Bad work quality
- Doing work from home more often
1. Avalanche of tech
Another distinguished cause of information overload in communication is technology. Let me break it down for you, nowadays we use apps for every kind of task from collaboration, and communication to project management, you name it. The plethora of tools consists of messaging apps, video conferencing platforms, emails, intranet, time monitoring tools, and much more. If managed badly it can create too much insignificant information that will be too hard to handle.
According to a survey conducted by the International Data Corporation, an employee spends 2.5 Hours or 30% of the working day just locating relevant information. Let’s be honest, a typical employee has too many solutions and data to manage, which will increase the time as they keep toggling between the apps. Another example of a staggering report which studied 5 million hours of live desktop apps and found out that an average employee switched between 35 applications thousands of times a day.
2. Shared information is too much to process
As the name suggests, workplace overload occurs when employees have too much information at hand. It exceeds the capacity to do work in a predefined time. Some of the factors should be highlighted here: the amount of data, time to manage, and capacity to handle it. All three factors can vary from one organization to another, but it all comes down to the individual/employee level. In the market these days, there are a lot of tools that make the flow of information very easy, the aim was that data should be at the fingertips. But it also resulted in oversharing content via the company intranet, emails, files, and social media platforms. All lead to an overflowing of data; relevant, irrelevant, and duplicated information.
3. Let’s highlight the second point!
But who will decide what’s the capacity to process information? The answer to this question depends on various factors ranging from individual traits to the level of education, rank in the organization, job motivation, and satisfaction. The biggest drawback is the time, if employees are not provided with sufficient time they would be suffering from message overload regardless of the capacity.
4. Lack of strategic concept
Besides people and technology, organizations have a huge role to limit information explosion. Now you’re thinking how? Let us break it down for you, handling information is purely a strategic and visionary thing that comes from the top hierarchy to the employees. The vision and strategic concept of a corporation reflect the company culture and long-term objectives. Therefore, in the start, some may overcommit and invest heavy-handedly in software solutions while completely ignoring the policies and best practices. It creates more problems amidst the rapidly changing technological environment.
Most organizations follow “one size fits all” when it comes to managing information. But it’s practically wrong because each cooperation has its values, vision, and culture, and an employee needs a tailored strategy to coordinate with the data circulating among the teams and the department. For instance, an internal communication strategy to keep the employees well informed and engaged; an effective document on how to keep the information aligned, organized, managed, and so on.
5. Quantity and quality of the shared data in the workplace
Let’s find out what causes information overload. For that, we’ve classified the workplace information on type, quality, novelty, and complexity. Furthermore, the data that employees have to deal with daily can be tagged as relevant and irrelevant. As that name suggests, relevant information describes the data an employee needs to do their job. Whereas irrelevant information is completely different; the piles of information that employees stumble upon rather than actively seeking.
The irrelevant information is very time-consuming and can cause confusion leading to distraction and unproductive work.
Few tips for dealing with information overload
Perform a time audit
Performing a time audit will provide you with a clearer picture of where your time has been utilized. It’s the most effective technique as it helps you delegate your time priority-wise, and complete all the tasks. Also, the time-blocking method lets you focus on the important task. For instance, by dedicating X amount of time to the prioritized task, in this way you can organize the to-do list in a better way rather than just an open-ended thing.
Reduce the number of communication channels
Look keenly as possible at all the communication channels and prioritize them according to the assigned projects. Of Course, it’s not fixed and varies with time. Communicate with your team and give them a clear directive on each task. For example, there should not be any confusion about whether to go for email or chat or a project management tool or meeting. If it’s not, make it coherent so that everyone knows where to find updated information in the same place.
Don’t involve in unnecessary meetings
Despite what other employees say around you, one should not be involved in every meeting as there will be less time available for work. Also, if the meeting is without an agenda it’s going to be long, off-topic, and unproductive.
Use an asynchronous communication tool
Let’s be honest, the synchronous way of working is much more frenetic, therefore, switching to the asynchronous form of communication such as Invochat. It provides a collaborative business platform to conduct internal and external communication. Not only will it save communication time but also prevent zoom fatigue.
Improve notification settings
Set the important notification you want to receive from different apps both desktop and mobile. Half of the messages can survive with a one or two-hour delay, honestly, you wouldn’t want to get notifications of every message. You can also put ‘Do not disturb mode’ to set boundaries when you are available for non-urgent matters.
Manage your time and attention
To be efficient and productive you’ve to divide your time wisely and what your day-to-day priorities to work on. Always decide your daily priorities beforehand that you need to accomplish within the given time. Plan your tasks and establish a deadline if no one else is doing them for you. Plus, if you’re feeling FOMO of all the conversation and feeling the need to be constantly involved in a loop, Take a step back and breathe, don’t over-exhaust yourself. Things can get done if you’re calm and have a clear vision.
Information overload can happen to the best of the best if you feel that you've been assigned a great deal of work and your manager has a vague idea of what’s been going on. Talk to the concerned authority. Because at the end of the day, overload can cause serious repercussions on mental well-being so the best thing is to communicate and prioritize well.