Impacts of app overload:
Over the last decade, technology has redefined just about every aspect of how we live. But tech solutions have been a real game changer when it comes to workplace productivity. Whether presenting to clients, sharing documents, tracking projects, or just about any other on-the-job function, there’s an app for that—and all of these tools and solutions are designed to make working more effective and seamless.
But all of these solutions have some unintended side effects. The average worker uses 35 different tools on the job, juggling back and forth between apps more than 1,100 times a day.
Rather than fueling efficiency, this excess of tech might actually drain it: two-thirds of employees say they lose an hour each day (or 32 full days a year) to app toggling. In fact, while businesses employ so many workplace apps to help employees do more, the reverse is true.
Here are four consequences of app overload.
1. Loss of focus
Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re working on a presentation when a colleague pings you with a question you could swear you recently had a discussion about. You switch to your messaging app to search for the conversation… and when it doesn’t turn up, you open your email to look for it there. The answer turns out to be too complicated for text, so you switch to your phone app and call your colleague to discuss.
Once the question is resolved, it’s back to what you were working on before—but only after you’ve spent a few more minutes figuring out where precisely you left off and getting back into the zone.
We often think of multitasking as a way to get more done, but the reality is task switching can eat up valuable time. It’s not just the original interruption—the work of regaining focus is a significant productivity killer. And with 70% of workers reporting that their communications volume is a challenge to getting work done, time lost due to loss of focus can have a big company-wide effect on productivity.
2. Loss of context
Preparation is everything—especially when you’re jumping into a big meeting. But here’s another scenario that might sound familiar: You’re getting off a call that went late and need to rush to make the next meeting. You switch to your messaging app to find your meeting notes, but they’re not where you thought they were. There’s not enough time to scan through dozens of other team chats to find the info, so you head into your next meeting blind.
Documents, images, links, a useful comment or key message—workers share and accumulate all sorts of important information over time. When all that content lives across too many different apps and solutions, it’s bound to get lost (and will require time and energy to dig it up—if you even can).
3. Employee fatigue
Worker burnout is on the rise, and no, it’s not just because of pandemic stress. Even before we ever heard the word COVID, more than half of millennials said work was exhausting them. And when considering the causes of this burnout, an excess of workplace apps can’t be overlooked as a factor.
Nearly seven in 10 workers say they toggle between apps up to 10 times per hour. The precious minutes lost each time—to logging on to a new app, to gaining context, to regaining focus on the original task—all add up, making it harder to get priority tasks done and creating a work backlog. The consequence—a to-do list that never seems to go down in size—only increases employee stress and fatigue.
4. Lack of communication
Things tend to go wrong at work when one hand doesn’t talk to the other. And an excess of apps can contribute to communication breakdowns.
Consider just the work of getting the whole team onto a conference call. If meeting invites are sent out via email, then everyone has to dig through their inbox for the meeting details, find and open the link, type a password, and so on. By the time everyone is on, they’re all annoyed and exhausted.
And this may be a best-case scenario. If communications tools are too cumbersome or complicated to use, the bigger risk is that employees simply won’t use them at all. Instead, they may default to other forms of communication like text or email. These modes may be easier to use or access, but they don’t provide the same opportunities for clarity and deeper collaboration.
It’s time to streamline
Companies employ countless business apps to help workers be more efficient and productive. But the unintended costs of app overload can’t be ignored. An excess of tools erodes productivity at every turn, making it difficult for workers to connect and share information, wasting time, and stealing focus and energy.
It’s time to reduce the apps and offer employees streamlined all-in-one tools that break down silos and that make it easier and more appealing to work together—and drive better results.
Originally published Aug 16, 2021, updated Jan 18, 2023