Earlier this year, we uncovered a pervasive workplace challenge: app overload. A global survey we commissioned showed that the majority of knowledge workers (69 percent) waste up to 60 minutes a day navigating between workplace apps, specifically apps for business communications. To put that in perspective, that translates to 32 days of lost productivity per year!
Conquering app overload in the digital workplace can be incredibly daunting. With team messaging, virtual conferencing, and a laundry list of other team communication apps, it’s easy to see how navigating between them all can do more to hamper productivity than improve it.
In the midst of this app overload, however, there are three sets of workers that could teach the rest of us a thing or two about managing app-induced stress. According to a deeper analysis of the survey, women, West Coast workers, and baby boomers are all leading the way in overcoming the chaos to achieve workplace zen.
Women dominate multitasking at work
The survey analysis supports other research findings that women are better than men at multitasking. We posed 14 possible scenarios to see how navigating multiple communications apps stacked up against some of the most annoying, mundane tasks. In every situation, men always found navigating multiple apps more annoying than women did. For example, when asked if navigating apps was more annoying than trying to lose weight, 55 percent of men reported app navigation as more annoying versus 47 percent of women.
Dr. Gregory L. Jantz writes in “Psychology Today” that men and women process information differently. Men tend to zero in on tasks and have more “tunnel vision” when they are focused on something, while women’s brains are able to network across processing centers to more quickly transition between tasks.
While male workers could stand to learn from their female counterparts’ level approach, ultimately the frustration felt by both genders can be resolved by one thing: a single communications platform. When surveyed, 66 percent of all workers regardless of gender wanted a unified platform to integrate all communications.
West Coast workers are savvier at managing the communications stream
That “West Coast cool” just so happens to be an accurate stereotype—in the workplace at least. Across the US, 66 percent of workers found the volume of communications at work challenging to getting their work done, but 58 percent of West Coast workers (i.e., workers in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) agreed with this sentiment. Interestingly, however, while 21 percent of US workers navigate between apps six or more times per hour, 30 percent of West Coast workers navigate between apps at this frequency.
West Coast workers’ ability to keep their cool in the digital workplace can be attributed to the fact that many of these workers live in three of the top six high-tech metro areas in the country—Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Seattle. Being fully immersed in the changing tech landscape helps them to be savvier in spite of having to navigate between multiple apps. Of course, the sunshine probably factors into their calm demeanor as well.
Baby boomers are closer to finding zen amid the chaos
Workers ages 55 and older have a better handle on managing the chaos of business communications. However, this is largely attributed to the fact that only 2 percent of baby boomers navigate multiple apps more than five times per hour, compared to 22 percent of millennials and 18 percent of Gen Xers. A significant decrease in the percentage of baby boomers who find the volume of their workplace communications challenging can be expected since their younger counterparts are doing more navigating throughout the day.
While women, West Coast workers, and baby boomers are leading the way toward achieving workplace zen in their own right, app overload undeniably costs companies billions of dollars a year and contributes to global loss of productivity. As suggested by the majority of survey respondents across all demographics, a single, tightly integrated communications platform is the most viable solution for providing much-needed workplace zen.
Originally published Jun 07, 2018, updated Aug 12, 2020