Information overload: workers bogged down by nonstop messages

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Workers need more guidance and advice to deal with the information overload affecting them every day. Currently a third of workers get more information than they can handle in a day, according to findings from Randstad.

The survey of more than 400 Canadian workers found 33% agreed with the statement “I receive more information on a daily basis than I can process.”

“I’m surprised it’s that low. There’s lots of evidence that people have too much information. They get overloaded with emails, receive multiple copies of messages and get a lot of spam,” Nina Cole professor of HR management and organizational behavior at Ryerson University said. “It’s a product of the information age. I think businesses could do a lot more to offer guidance to their staff.”

There has been little research done into coping methods and people are largely left on their own to deal with the problem under the heading of time management, Cole said.

Time management techniques often include checking emails only two to three times a day, but this can be difficult if workers have smartphones (more than half surveyed did) that signal whenever an email comes in.

The problem has developed gradually over the last 15 years. At the advent of work email the problem wasn’t very severe, but now work accounts are clogged with advertising, newsletters and spam that get through firewalls. Because of this slow build up, the problem doesn’t always get a lot of attention.

“If nothing else managers should be reinforcing general time-management guidelines. When you’ve got something like smart phones and your computer that can alert you every time a message comes in that might not be the best thing for your productivity at work,” Cole added. “You may want to turn off that feature so you’re not interrupted every few minutes by another email coming in.”

More than 40% of the survey’s respondents said they set aside time during their day to ignore their emails and phones.

“That’s really the best coping method – organizing your time so you deal with your emails all at once and then focus on other work,” Cole said.



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