RingCentral’s Communications @ Work survey aims to assess how communications in the workplace is evolving. Is the amount of communications workers handle in their daily work lives today exceeding the amount handled five years ago? How is AI poised to impact the way we communicate? Constant communications at work have been overwhelming for years, but it appears that the volume of communications has been accelerated by the pandemic and is outpacing our ability to keep up. In 2018, RingCentral did a benchmark study looking at communications at work. Now in 2023, five years later, RingCentral is taking another look to assess how workplace communications have changed. Has it stayed the same, improved — or devolved into chaos?
To answer this question, RingCentral collaborated with Ipsos, a multinational market research and consulting firm, exploring how communications chaos and app overload impact the workforce and what solutions are available to reduce it.
Introduction & Methodology
In the modern workplace, employees are expected to use more work applications and manage a greater volume of communications than ever before. While these apps promise to streamline everyday work, the communications chaos and toggle tax burden created often put additional strain on team members.
The research findings uncover valuable insight into the role that unified work communications and AI play in alleviating toggle tax headaches. These insights were generated through a survey of 4,500 workers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia aged 21 to 65 who are currently full-time workers, defined as working full-time, having two or more part-time jobs, or being self-employed full-time.
What you will learn in the following study includes:
- The cost of toggle tax on workers’ productivity, attitudes towards work, and ability to focus.
- What tools exist to tackle the growing communications chaos challenge, and what people want to see implemented at work.
- The role AI will play in the future of workplace productivity and communications.
We’re In An Era of Communications Overload
Navigating a growing number of apps is one of many responsibilities on many workers’ to-do lists. More than half (52%) in the countries surveyed say they use six or more business apps or programs to communicate each work week, with nearly 1 in 5 reporting that they use 11 or more. This has sharply increased since 2018, when research revealed only 20% of workers used six or more work apps.1
In 2018, workers spent 32 days per year toggling between communication apps. In 2023, that amount of time spent by workers has nearly doubled (93%) to 62 working days per year — significantly impacting productivity and efficiency.
Notifications are also interrupting work, both during and after work, with nearly 70% of workers surveyed finding their communications volume challenging and having to check work notifications outside of their standard hours. This figure jumps higher in the US, with 77% of American workers checking notifications outside of work hours.
The substantial volume of notifications is producing a negative association with workplace communications among employees, creating an always-on mentality at work. Workers also believe the lack of easily manageable communication harms their creativity and ability to do deep work. These challenges impact employee experience and ultimately harm productivity.
The Impact of AI at Work
What solutions are available for reducing communications chaos and decreasing the toggle tax from having too many communication apps? Employees say it’s AI.
Many workers, 46%, report that they use AI at work. Further, 59% agree that AI can save time by identifying relevant and important information across communications apps at work. These numbers jump among younger American employees who represent the next generation of the US workforce: 78% of employees aged 21-34 agree AI can save time, while 73% feel it can reduce feelings of chaos.
Some of the AI use cases employees believe will be most helpful include note-taking and transcription (35%), task management (36%), and meeting recaps (28%). In the next year, American (42%) and Australian (35%) workers are most excited about AI for task management, whereas UK workers (33%) are most looking forward to transcription and note-taking tools.
“Meaningful investment in innovation, especially AI, is vital for an organization’s longevity, but it won’t work without a people-centered approach,” says Ben Schechter, SVP of Marketing at RingCentral. “Exploring and testing AI-driven solutions to meet the needs of employees, partners, and customers will be crucial as organizations look to scale an engaged community.”
Unifying Communications Apps is Essential
Many workers believe the answer to eliminating communications chaos is a unified solution: 68% of employees say they would prefer a unified work communications platform and 34% strongly prefer one, but many employers have yet to adopt a single, easy-to-use platform.
The importance of unified communications to worker productivity has increased during the past five years. In 2018, 65% of workers felt that unified communications would improve their productivity. That number has since climbed to 86% in 2023.
Here are four essential benefits of adopting a unified communications platform:
- Saving time: Unified communications platforms reduce time wasted switching between apps. One-third of workers who prefer unified communications believe they’d save more than an hour each day with a single platform.
- Increasing productivity: Half of workers say having too many communications apps makes them less productive. This is even higher in the UK and Australia, where 57% and 59% of workers, respectively, feel hindered by too many apps.
- Improving the employee experience: The majority (56%) of surveyed workers experiencing increased notifications “feel like they’re always at work, even when they are off the clock.”
- Space for “deep work”: Nearly half (49%) of the workforce feels too many apps take away from their ability to do “deep work.” This is especially notable in the UK (51%) and Australian (52%) markets, as compared to the US (44%).
As communications and app complexity increases, employers must consider how unified communications and AI can save time, boost productivity, and improve employee experience and satisfaction. By implementing these solutions, they can ensure workers are happy, healthy, and efficient team members.
“Workforces globally are increasingly juggling numerous apps, which adds to their mental load and hampers productivity,” said Schechter. “This doesn’t have to be the norm. With tech advancements like AI and centralized communications, companies have the opportunity to streamline these experiences, benefiting employees and customers alike.”
To learn more how to reduce communications chaos in your organization, or explore further how RingCentral MVP® (Message Video Phone™) can help streamline workplace communications, visit ringcentral.com.
- The #WorkZen report surveyed 2,000 knowledge workers in the US, UK, and Australia.
Originally published Oct 04, 2023