HRE’s Number of the Day: ‘app fatigue’

The rapid shift to remote work has been met with largely positive reviews from employees, many of whom cite the flexibility as fueling productivity and engagement. However, such arrangements aren’t without downsides, particularly when it comes to technology.

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Recent research has suggested that a lack of technology support is the main impediment to a successful work-from-home setup and, according to a new study, the number of tools employees are using can also be sidetracking them. In its 2020 State of the Digital Workplace, Igloo Software found that 55% of polled employees are using at least two collaboration tools.

Mike Hicks, chief marketing officer at Igloo, notes that the shift to remote work has increased the risk for “app fatigue”–as days that used to be broken up by formal and informal meetings and moving around an office setting are now instead spent entirely in front of a screen, relying on collaboration tools to fill those gaps.

“Burning eyes from screen time is just one part of the problem,” he says.

What it means for HR leaders

Hicks says a big part of the “app fatigue” problem is that employees spend a significant amount of time searching for information across a variety of applications, prompting many to take short-cuts.

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Related: Tracking the remote work trend

“They are sending files over chat messages. They are placing important pieces of information needed to support decision-making in locations that have limited visibility,” he says.

“If leadership teams can … create a culture that knows it’s OK to step away from the screen, we can start to address app fatigue and improve employee engagement.”

According to the Igloo survey, 57% of employees use at least one app not approved by their company each day to complete their work, while 51% have avoided document-sharing because of the cumbersome process. This can lead to “data silos” and to recipients spending more time hunting for the information they need.

Hicks suggests that employers make a concerted effort to evaluate all of the mobile and desktop apps their employees are using to get work done.

“With the increased reliance on tools for communicating and collaborating,” he adds, “it’s also important for organizations to set expectations for which tools should be used for each type of work scenario.”

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Apart from digital tools, business leaders should be promoting a culture that gives employees permission to step away from the computer periodically, Hicks notes. Even 15-minute blocks of non-screentime–encouraged by managers during one-on-ones and modeled by senior leadership–can be helpful.

“All in all, if leadership teams can create more consistency in how they use their tools, rally behind the concept of a centralized digital destination and create a culture that knows it’s OK to step away from the screen,” Hicks says, “we can start to address app fatigue and improve employee engagement.”

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].