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Help! We’re drowning: Coping with information overload

Last month, we conducted some research in association with One Poll, which found that British workers are finding it hard to navigate, organise and digest all of the information they have to deal with each day. The research highlighted that Brits seem to receive smaller amounts of data than we initially thought, however when it comes from multiple sources it quickly becomes hard to manage, something that can negatively impact the business bottom line and is making workers unhappy.

Despite the average person receiving just 36 emails a day, our research found that a third of these are still going unread. Further results from the survey can be seen in our infographic, and seem to echo our email consumption, showing that data, even by the droplet, still maintains a negative human impact, and was cited as a cause of workplace unhappiness, with two thirds (65.%) of office workers saying that the amount of data they are receiving negatively affects their job.

Let’s put this into perspective
The average office worker spends over 21 minutes per day, which is the equivalent of more than two working weeks per year, searching for information they’ve seen but can’t find – a figure that is costing UK business £1,248.51 (Based on working 234 days a year, with an average working day of 7.5 hours and an average salary of £25,900, source: Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (December 2010), HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) records) a year per employee, based on the average wage (which amounts to £7366 per year for the average SME – Based on an average number of employees of 5.9). Suddenly this information overload seems an extremely relevant issue for businesses if their workers are being bombarded with social media updates, or wasting time trawling through emails and files before they find the information they require.

So what does this mean for businesses?
To be blunt, in the current economic climate businesses cannot afford to be losing this amount of money per employee per year. To make matters worse, 2012 is being touted as the year of Big Data, so businesses need to act now to ensure that their employees have the tools and strategies in place to effectively cope with, and handle, data consumption in the workplace. This time being spent searching for information can have a big effect at a time when businesses are looking to free up employees’ time to be more innovative and productive in order to stimulate the growth that most businesses are reaching towards.

Further research by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) has shown that despite businesses investing in modern technology to help improve organisational performance, one in six (18%) managers asked said that it didn’t make their jobs easier, with the research concluding that these tools can also bring an increased burden. Team this with the fact that half (51%) of the managers asked admitted to being more stressed than they were ten years ago, with almost half (46%) routinely working beyond their contracted hours, and it is clear to see that there is an opportunity for smarter working, something that has not yet been achieved by the majority of businesses.

A New Way of Working
What businesses seem to be missing here is that to truly maximise workplace efficiency, they need to recognise and appreciate the way that the brain naturally works in order to support the multitasking that is required of employees today. Currently, the way many people work (and the technology they use) doesn’t always make allowances for this and that’s why employees can often feel overloaded and struggle to make sense of all the information they have to deal with. Visualising information can be an effective way to combat this and help people see that all elusive ‘bigger picture’ and easily grasp connections between various pieces of information.

Here at Mindjet, we’re helping them to do this by providing collaborative work management solutions that focus on this visualisation of information, to significantly improve how people can retain information, work better together and can accomplish goals more successfully.

Unarguably, employees are only going to receive more information from even more sources in the future and we have to get better at managing it – this is where technology can help, if used in the right way. The way we have to work today involves dissecting and storing information from many sources. The fact we’re struggling to do this is a very real business issue and one that will only increase as we enter the big data era.

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