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Study: Too many tech tools are killing remote workers’ productivity

Focus, flexibility and trust will define the future of work.

Allie Nawrat

tech productivity
Credit: Lelia Milaya via Twenty20.

Unleash Your PeopleWorkers are wasting five hours a week faffing with HR tech tools.

  • Research by Qatalog and Cornell University found that tech tools are killing remote workplace productivity.
  • Workers are wasting an hour a day finding the information they need across different tools and are often duplicating work as they have no visibility about what other teams are up to.
  • What can be done to make remote work more productive?

The pivot to remote working would have been impossible without the help of tech – and particularly video conferencing software, messaging platforms, and collaboration tools.

However, research by digital work hub Qatalog and Cornell University’s Ellis Ideas Lab found that the tech tools we all rely on are actually damaging workers’ focus, creativity, and productivity.

Employees waste an hour a day – that’s five hours a week – trying to find the information they need on different apps and tools. 54% of the 3,000 US and UK workers surveyed said this was because knowledge is so fragmented across too many tools.

In addition, 43% noted they spent too much time switching between tech tools, like Slack or Zoom – and 45% said that the constant switching was hampering their productivity.

As a result, workers are struggling to concentrate on creative projects, and 62% felt they were missing opportunities to collaborate in the modern, distributed and remote workplace.

There is also a particular concern that work is being duplicated (44%), because it is hard to know what others are working on (61%). Therefore, creating even more wasted time during the working week.

Part of the issue here is that 49% of workers are concerned that updates about what they are doing are getting lost in messaging and communication platforms. This leads to them oversharing (53%), which ultimately only worsens the situation.

These are concerning findings given that remote work looks set to continue – at least some of the time – as many companies are looking towards embracing a hybrid, flexible future of work.

Qatalog founder and CEO Tariq Rauf concluded: “We need to call time on the great productivity scam. 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.

“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. We deserve better.”

[Read more: Why remote workers are suffering from tech overload – and what to do about it]

But what can companies do about it?

According to Rauf, “Fixing our chaotic work practices will take a thoughtful, two-pronged approach, not a half-baked hybrid work plan, or even worse, a command to return to the office full-time.

“Firstly, we need to press reset on the technology that underpins our working day so it creates focus, not chaos. We’ve been blessed with powerful new tools at work, but fooled into using them in the wrong way — it’s time to fix that.

“Secondly, we need a mindset shift that breaks from pre-pandemic 9-5 norms and embraces a radically new working culture rooted in trust.” 

The types of principles that Qatalog believe will be central to the future of work are trust, flexibility, focus and belonging. For Rauf, companies that embrace these principles will win the future war on talent.

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