Workers Got the Information Overload Blues
Workers across the planet admit to being overwhelmed by the voracious volume of work-related information they have to consume and digest via e-mail and other information collection systems. Information has to be taken in, but how it is processed, organized and made useful is up for serious debate, say corporate employees.
What is the consequence? The quality of their work is suffering say 62 percent of workers, according to a study on productivity of 1,700 white collar employees in the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Australia and South Africa by LexisNexis. Almost 60 percent of workers have noticed a dramatic increase in information since the downturn in the world economy, with a good amount of that information being viewed as primarily useless.
"Workers across the globe are just about managing to keep their heads above water in a rising tide of information," said Michael Walsh, CEO of U.S. Legal Markets at LexisNexis. "The results of this survey reveal not just how widespread the problem is, but also the very real impact that information overload has on professionals' productivity and the bottom line. Employers need to do more than simply toss their workers a life preserver and hope for the best."
Half of all the workers in these countries believe they are near their breaking points with information, and just over half are demoralized by not being able to manage it all. In the United States, 92 percent of workers have to search for old e-mails every week. In Australia, 58 percent of workers say they experience weekly disagreements with co-workers on how to best manage and organize information.
Information overload is not constrained by the workplace. A 2008 study from the University of California, San Diego found Americans consume 100,000 words in non-work-related information, or about 34 gigabytes, on average daily. The study found between 1980 and 2008 bytes consumed in television, gaming and Internet-centric information increased by 350 percent, for an annual rate increase of 5.4 percent. With all that information, workers are admitting their consternation on the job.
An astonishing number of employees in the United States-90 percent-report their companies could do more to help better manage information in the workplace, said the LexisNexis study. Eighty-two percent of workers across all five countries in this study say they want information-centric software to function more closely to the way they actually work.
"The bad news is that wherever you find knowledge workers around the world, you'll also find information overload," Walsh said in the same statement. "[B]usinesses that really come to grips with this problem could gain a competitive advantage over companies that do not."