The primary cause – keeping up with digital communications on a multitude of different platforms. The issue escalated significantly when the pandemic made home working necessary. The sudden move online was crucial and has now evolved into hybrid working. But with it came that pressure to continually communicate, one of the most detrimental side effects. The concept even has a name - “Digital Debt”.
“Every minute spent managing this digital debt is a minute not spent on creative work.”
First things first. What is Digital Debt? According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index Annual Report it is “the constant need to coordinate and communicate”. In other words digital overload. Video conference platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom saved the day during the pandemic. But they have increased the pace of business life. Now workers are experiencing a constant sense of urgency and that everything needs to be dealt with immediately. Employees may jump from one online meeting to another. At the same time they are checking their emails and the inflow of chats and online messages. But everything is being shared on a raft of different apps. The proportion of the day dedicated to responding is on the increase.
The result? Business productivity is negatively affected.
Time for innovation and creativity
“What is the calculus of innovation? The calculus of innovation is really quite simple: Knowledge drives innovation, innovation drives productivity, productivity drives economic growth.”
William Brody, Scientist
Microsoft 2023 Work Trend Index Annual Report reveals “with the balance of work hours spent communicating, 68% of people say they don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time during the workday”. On Microsoft’s 365 apps alone, employees are spending an average of 57% of their time on communications.
Good business mentors stress the necessity of taking time out from working in a business, to work on it. It’s all too easy to be sucked into the daily grind and to inadvertently neglect the bigger picture. This applies to workers at all levels of an organisation. With their time being taken up more and more by communications there is less time for innovation and creativity.
Businesses need new ideas if they are to survive. If workers don’t have that time to simply focus and think strategically, businesses’ innovation is likely to drop. This will of course have a lasting impact on the business’ ability to remain at the forefront of what they do. Eventually, the effects could be so detrimental that they affect a business’ ability to survive against the competition.
So, can any business really afford to ignore ‘digital debt’?
Over-communication – how do we manage it?
“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.”
Ultimately, good communication at all levels of a workplace is critical. Amongst employees, it helps to create a feeling of inclusion and understanding of a business’ goals. In turn motivation is improved and employees are able to form stronger relationships with their colleagues.
But it’s important to get the right balance. This is where the difficulty lies. The number of different platforms available for us to connect and communicate both internally and externally can present issues. Keeping abreast of them all can negatively impact productivity and create a sense of feeling overwhelmed.
What can be done?
Given the impact on a business’ potential productivity, the increasing volume of digital communications needs to be proactively managed. For example, talking to your colleagues if they are in the same location as you. Limiting the number of people that are copied into an email. Holding fewer video meetings. Not sending emails out of office hours.
Managers need to manage the relationships within their teams and to schedule time for team building. It’s essential especially as we have a greater number of remote and hybrid workers than we did five years ago.
Research and invest in artificial intelligence solutions that can help workers to manage and ease their workload.
Carve out thinking time in employees’ diaries for strategy and innovation.
Technology and digital communications are at the heart of the modern, post pandemic business. The dangers of “digital debt” on businesses’ innovation are all too real, are growing and need to be proactively addressed.
To maintain their edge, businesses need to remain on top of technology. It’s critical to replace legacy technology to keep everything as up to date as possible. GRENKE’s asset finance solution can help make the cost of doing this more manageable instead of an outright purchase. From IT hardware to smart technology we can help you with flexible finance options tailored to the needs of your business.