Fighting Digital Overload
Hyper-connection, hyperpresenteeism, hyper-stress… Yes, digital tools are revolutionizing the way we work and boosting performance, as expected, but they also carry risks for you and your teams. How can you better manage new technologies to ensure they maximize your time and energy rather than waste it?
In a world where it is not the biggest fish that eat the others but the fastest, digital tools (including but not limited to emails, intranets, social networks, collaborative platforms, instant messaging, video-conferences) have become musts. The tools are as powerful as they are indispensable – but their potential can go to waste or even turn harmful if implemented without the right framework. How can you seize the opportunities aff orded by digital technology without exhausting your staff and undermining your organization’s agility? How can you guarantee that these new technologies really give you an advantage rather than hamper you?
Disconnecting: the wrong good idea?
Many have begun extolling the merits of switching off, with several major companies taking radical measures to fight digital overload. Volkswagen blocks access to its email servers at night and on weekends for around 3,000 of its employees. Henkel, Sodexo and PriceMinister have all trialed mail-free days (or half-days). The results, however, have been unconvincing. Employees perceive the measures as infantilizing, and at odds with the principles of autonomy and flexibility promoted elsewhere in their companies. What’s more, enforced temporary disconnection only delays the problem. When the servers are switched back on, a pile of outstanding emails await employees, who are obliged to spend hours going through them. With the exception of Volkswagen, all of the other companies have either dropped their disconnection initiatives or relaxed their rules.
Authoritarian and radical “email withdrawal” solutions may not deliver the desired results, but there are other avenues to explore for limiting the harmful effects of hyper-connectivity. The first essential step is to measure the extent of the problem via an in-depth analysis of email servers and external connections, supplemented by employee focus groups.
1. McKinsey Digital Survey 2016 based on responses from 2135 managers.
2. “Bâtissez une tour, bâtissez une équipe” by Tom Wujec (Ted.com, February 2010).
Excerpt from Business Digest N°285, April 2018
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Published by Emmanuelle Meylan