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Everyone is Overwhelmed and Companies Don’t Know What to Do About It, Says Deloitte Survey

What's this, now?

Too much access to information has turned us into “overwhelmed” employees. Nearly every company sees this phenomenon as a challenge to productivity and overall performance, but struggles to handle it.

  • Information overload and the always-connected 24/7 work environment are overwhelming workers, undermining productivity and contributing to low employee engagement.
  • Sixty-five percent of executives in our survey rated the “overwhelmed employee” an “urgent” or “important” trend, while 44 percent said that they are “not ready” to deal with it.

Studies show that people check their mobile devices up to 150 times every day. Yet despite employees being always on and constantly connected, most companies have not figured out how to make information easy to find. In fact, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of employees have told us they still cannot find the information they need within their company’s information systems.

This constant and frenetic level of activity also costs money, perhaps $10 million a year for mid-size companies. According to one study, 57 percent of interruptions at work resulted from either social media tools or switching among disparate stand-alone applications.

Here's one suggestion: teach people to stop sending stupid emails and — more importantly — to refrain from CCing everyone and their mama on them. That's a good start.

Remember back in the day when the pleasant "ding" of a new email was somewhat of a thrill? Yeah, me neither. Ever since spammers started harassing my grandma on AOL with their promises of gaining 3 inches on the penis she didn't have, email has become a tedious exercise in sorting through the noise of our lives. Now, we get emails about emails. We get emails asking if we received text messages or listened to voicemails (protip to anyone who leaves me a voicemail: I haven't listened to it, and I won't listen to it, and if it was really that important you would know better than to abandon it in the abyss of my precariously full voicemail box). We get so many emails that we miss the important ones and are unsure which require action and which belong in the virtual trash.

Hoping your message is seen, you try to write subject lines as tempting as Upworthy clickbait headlines, and stuff as many issues as you can in a single email. Who can make sense of that?

Well while we're on the topic, here are some old but still valid suggestions from Harvard Business Review on writing better emails. Start by keeping it short and simple. In other words (see what I did there?), your emails are too damn long. WHAT IS IT YOU WANT, EXACTLY? Say that.

Back to the survey:

Organizations are beginning to acknowledge their share of responsibility for the problem of the overwhelmed employee and take steps to help solve it.

Historically, managing time and information was viewed as an employee’s personal concern. If employees were overwhelmed, the thinking went, they were expected to fix it themselves—by taking a course in time management, for instance. Now, some employers are treating overload as a shared problem requiring a company response. In short, the overwhelmed employee is being viewed as a business and productivity challenge, as well as a personal one.

This is a fair point, unless you're screwing off half your day on Facebook (or covering your colleague's desk in tinfoil) and then get butthurt over being expected to answer a few emails off hours.

So, assuming your firm's Powers that Be stalk these pages religiously, what would you suggest if they wanted to figure out a way to cut down on information overload and help you be a more efficient little grunt?