January 27, 2023


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Remote working technology is creating a productivity nightmare

We’re wasting up to an hour each day simply searching through apps for the information we need, according to new research.

Technology has propped up remote working, but at what cost?

Image: iStock/SeventyFour

Nearly half of workers say that an abundance of remote working tools is ruining their productivity and making it harder to get their job done.

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Research by Cornell University and software company Qatalog found that 43{24d3bdfa809a857f5c7f6d66fc88b03519545d546623e4573a359ce9619440d7} of workers report spending too much time switching between different tools, with employees spending up to an hour each day simply searching for information across different applications.

The research says the recent forced shift to working remotely has led to “uncontrolled adoption” of new software across organizations that is fuelling burnout and “cheating workers out of time, focus and creativity.”

These chaotic work environments are also making it more difficult for teams to work together on creative projects, with 62{24d3bdfa809a857f5c7f6d66fc88b03519545d546623e4573a359ce9619440d7} of workers feeling they had missed out on opportunities to collaborate.

Nearly nine in 10 workers say their work-life is getting worse as a result, researchers said.

Software has provided a digital safety net for organizations while employees have been working from home, though the speed at which remote working was adopted in 2020 left little time for planning.

This has left many organizations with a patchwork for remote-working and productivity tools that makes finding information difficult and increases “context switching” that slows down work and harms productivity, researchers said.

More than half (54{24d3bdfa809a857f5c7f6d66fc88b03519545d546623e4573a359ce9619440d7}) of the 1,000 UK and US respondents said the number of different tools they had to work with made it harder to find what they needed, and 45{24d3bdfa809a857f5c7f6d66fc88b03519545d546623e4573a359ce9619440d7} said this context switching made them less productive.

Remote working: Employees say these four things will make them more productive


As a result, employees are wasting up to five hours every week switching between different digital tools, cycling through tabs and digging through messaging channels. It’s also fuelling workplace slip-ups, with 48{24d3bdfa809a857f5c7f6d66fc88b03519545d546623e4573a359ce9619440d7} of respondents admitting to making mistakes as a result of being unable to keep track of what’s going on across different channels.

“There’s been an explosion in the number of apps we rely on to do our jobs, but the result isn’t greater productivity – it’s total chaos,” said Tariq Rauf, CEO and founder of Qatalog.

“No matter their individual merits, each tool is adding to a noisy digital environment that is, quite literally, driving workers to distraction. The more time that we waste on this mess, the less we have for deep thought and meaningful engagement with our colleagues.”

This hodgepodge approach to software has a knock-on effect for security: 62{24d3bdfa809a857f5c7f6d66fc88b03519545d546623e4573a359ce9619440d7} of respondents admitted to
using ‘rogue’ tools to get the job done

their own way, potentially opening themselves and the wider organization up to vulnerabilities.

SEE: Working from home: How to get remote right (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The research concluded that moving to ‘hybrid’ models of work would require a
radical shift away from pre-pandemic 9-5 norms

that looked beyond the scope of productivity apps and workplace software.

Post-pandemic work models should place
a greater focus on flexible-working preferences

and autonomy, limiting the number of digital distractions to help workers focus on their jobs while also creating a culture of shared values and direction, researchers said.

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