Modern workplace apps are getting a ton of usage in the corporate world today. From better organization to increased efficiency, there are a ton of positives they bring to the table. But these same apps that seem so helpful to office workers may actually be lowering productivity and producing unhealthy habits. Constant stress or distraction are some of the potential downsides added to the workday by these applications.
Here’s how corporate use of modern work apps is hurting the modern office worker and how cutting down on them can help you stay happy, healthy, and productive.
Always online, always working
Good and Slack are team communication apps that sell organizations on the idea of a more interconnected team. Modern project management tools like Trello and Asana help managers keep track of their employees’ work and assign new tasks in a central location. Email makes workers instantaneously accessible from across the globe. The result is an always online employee that can be reached whenever, wherever.
But what happens when notifications from all these apps keep pinging an office worker on the weekend, on their day off, during an after work dinner, or even while on vacation? Do they ignore the notifications or take time away from their personal lives to respond? More likely than not, they at the very least look at what’s pinging them, if not immediately respond.
The corporate work style encourages getting things done immediately as soon as they hit. Office workers get so wrapped up in the idea that they need to satisfy their boss to keep their job that they don’t realize they’re essentially constantly working. As a result, they signal that they’re always available for work, which only begets more notifications, more after work tasks, and more stress. Modern apps have facilitated the cyclical nature of this process and resulted in a dissatisfied workforce.
These are not issues you should keep quiet out of fear of retribution. They’re tangible negative effects on your productivity and your team’s output. If you find that being always online is part of your company’s work culture, you should take the time to speak with your boss about your concerns. It’s not about not wanting to do extra work. It’s about getting the separation between work and life that will enable you and your colleagues to get some rest.
And if you don’t feel your boss will be too receptive of your concerns, you can always set your own process to disconnect. Log out of all your work apps at the end of a workday and only look out for emails that seem like emergencies. Teach others through your behavior that you aren’t always available. Prioritize any work you have to do outside of normal hours. The rest can wait until tomorrow.
Another problem with modern work apps is that they result in information overload. From dozens of analytics tools to several different ways to track your tasks, office workers have to spend too much time getting a handle on what information is most important. Meanwhile, managers in an app and tool overload can no longer track their teams or their goals effectively.
The result is a lot of uncertainty and a lot of time spent deciphering different data sources. From hopping from one app dashboard to the next, reading one graph and another statistic, figuring out the story the numbers tell can be a tough task. But a clear story is necessary so that you can learn from your work and understand where you can improve. With information overload, adapting based on data insights becomes near impossible.
So how do you stop the barrage of data? Focus in on the one or two apps that really matter for your job. Look at the apps you’re using today to track your goals and figure out which ones are most pertinent to your work. Keep the rest on the side for when you really need them but don’t bother checking them every day. This will let you get the insights you need without overloading your brain.
Apps enforce rigid work
There’s a problem with being able to spec out a project from beginning to end, set out all its parameters, and input them into a project management app that sets out tasks for every employee. On the surface, this sounds terrific. In reality, it creates a rigid project structure that doesn’t allow for novel ideas -- sometimes a good thing, sometimes not so much.
Work apps exacerbate an already present problem for the modern corporate employee - a lack of opportunity to be creative. Constantly informing your work based on the latest analytics is great for producing expected results. It’s awful for creating unique results with your work.
When everyone uses tools that prescribe the right answer to every problem, the end result is a lack of innovation or creative thinking. Break away these tools and work outside their constraints every once in a while. Just because your analytics dashboard says that an old idea has worked for forever doesn’t mean that new idea won’t.
Research it, put together a proposal, and bring it to your boss. If you think a project is missing a certain uniqueness that will make your work stand out, but it goes against your KPIs for the month or outside the flow of work & assignments you regularly use, go ahead and make it happen.
Apps become distracting
As time passes, the usefulness of modern work apps tends to take a sharp dip. Whether because of poor implementation, overuse, or simply having learned and internalized the productivity lessons the app tries to teach, employees often find themselves relying on these tools less and less.
Those that do continue to use them find them distracting and frustrating rather than useful. Slack becomes a mess of unread messages that you'll never get back to and notifications you try your best to ignore. It's intended to reduce reliance on email and other apps but is instead increasing the amount of noise in workers' lives.
Project management apps, on the other hand, are misused by managers and often become either too granular or use a different organizational structure with each new project. As a result, employees are forced to grapple with a new and confusing way to receive and understand their tasks every couple of months.
In the end, the things that made these work apps so useful faded away into poor implementation and misuse. And the end result for office workers is a constant stream of distracting notifications that are less useful than they are a break in their productivity.
Stopping the distractions takes some action on your part. First, some apps let you disable specific notification sets, such as an entire conversation. Take advantage of this feature to block out the noisiest and most useless ones. If certain apps aren’t working, ask your boss if you can replace or get rid of them outright so that there are fewer distractions during the day. Find ones that do the job better or serve a more niche rather than general purpose.
Finally, if implementation is an issue, bring that up to your boss and talk about how the apps aren’t working as you had originally anticipated. After all, tools like SalesForce are great if used correctly, but otherwise become messy and unmanageable.
Modern work apps may be changing the workplace, but it’s not always for the best. For corporate workers using these apps, it’s important to recognize and avoid some of the down-the-road issues they present. So speak to your manager about the way apps are being used. Chances are they’re having their own frustrations. And do what you can on your own to disconnect after work so that you can be productive during the day.