Time is precious. And every day, we are robbed of it at work by technology, processes and distractions that slow us down. We work at night — and even on the weekends — to make up for it. And it’s taking a toll.
Data from the American Institute of Stress shows that U.S. workers — already identified as the most overworked in the world — are putting in longer hours than ever. Yet we’re delivering less. Why? Because we’re so bogged down by constant digital distractions and menial administrative tasks that we can’t get to the meaningful work we were hired to do. That stresses us out, and as a result, many of us are burning out. In May, the World Health Organization officially recognized burnout as an “occupational phenomenon.” And according to Gallup, two thirds of all full-time workers have experienced it on the job.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire
Burnout is legit. And according to Employee Burnout Crisis, a survey conducted by Kronos International and the Future Workplace®, it’s at an all-time high. “Employee burnout has reached epidemic proportions,” notes Charlie DeWitt, vice president of business development at Kronos. And the costs of ignoring it are high. “Not only can employee burnout sap productivity and fuel absenteeism, but it will undermine engagement and cause an organization’s top performers to leave the business altogether,” DeWitt adds. “This creates a never-ending cycle of disruption that makes it difficult to build the high-performing workforce needed to compete in today’s business environment.”
Recognizing this, many companies are moving to four-day work weeks and discouraging the use of e-mail after hours.
Fanning the flames
Why is burnout so prevalent? Because there’s way too much digital noise in the workplace today. Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams have opened entirely new ways for us to engage and collaborate. But they are yet another work channel that vies for our attention. And the expectations they set for instantaneous responses exacerbate our stress.
Despite all the technology that has been put in to place to automate and streamline work, IDC estimates we still spend nearly 30 percent of our time searching for the information we need to do our jobs and waste more than 32 days a year toggling between different applications to complete administrative tasks.
Thanks to the proliferation of technology, we’re also distracted. About every two minutes, we are interrupted by an email, a text, a Tweet or Slack. We are continually context switching, and it takes us about 26 minutes to get refocused on what we were doing. So, we’ve taken to working after hours when it’s quiet and we can focus, because, thanks again to technology, we can work anywhere, anytime from any device.
In short, digital technologies that were built to help us execute tasks, analyze data, and collaborate in new ways are creating unprecedented levels of interruptions, distractions, and stress that frustrate and keep us from doing our best work. Ironically, the same technologies that are in many ways contributing to our burnout can be used to get it under control.
Work smarter, not longer
Think about some of the most common tasks you do each day at work:
· Opening and commenting on a file
· Requesting time off
· Approving an expense report
· Creating a ticket for IT support
· Registering for a learning course
On average, you need four or more applications to execute them. And between entering multiple passwords and navigating different interfaces, you spend about one minute and 16 seconds on each. When you add it all up, that’s roughly 10 minutes an hour and six hours a week wasted on mundane, app-based work.
All of this has created a new level of stress and frustration at work. We simply have too many tools. And they’re too hard to find and use. But new technologies are emerging to simply access, limit noise, and literally guide us through our days so that we can perform at our best.
Think about your personal life. Need to check in for your flight? Pull up your reservation on your phone and click the “check in” button. Need a ride to the airport? Open your Uber app and give it your location. The simplicity and utility that these technologies have brought to our personal lives are slowly making their way into the workplace.
An emerging breed of intelligent workspace solutions, for instance, provide unified, single-sign-on access to all of the apps and content we need to be productive across any device, anywhere. They leverage things like machine learning to surface and prioritize relevant tasks and insights and automatically deliver them to us on our phones, tablets or PCs so we don’t have to sift through our inbox, search calendars or go six clicks deep into an enterprise application just to get things done. Just like the newsfeed and alerts that drive our lives at home, they can be used to organize and guide our work and empower us to do their best. And they dynamically apply security policies based on our behavior and environment, allowing us to work the way we want with the confidence that our applications, information and devices are safe.
And they’re quieting a lot of the digital noise.
Take the tasks above. When completing them through an intelligent workspace, they can each be done in just 27 seconds. That’s 51 minutes per day and four hours a week you can use to do meaningful work — during your actual work day.
Light a positive fire
Technology is a key driver of the modern employee experience. And according to The Experience of Work: The Role of Technology in Productivity and Engagement, recent research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit in partnership with Citrix, companies that use it to provide employees with tools that make work more efficient and meaningful can deliver a superior one, and in the process, keep their employees engaged and productive and improve their business results.
But more important, by removing the complexity and frustration from work and giving employees the tools they need to be and perform at their best, they can spark a positive fire and keep them from burning out.
Tim Minahan is Executive Vice President of Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at Citrix, a leading provider of digital workspace solutions.