TMI: How too much information undermines workplace effectiveness

by Staff Writer

Humans are data-generation machines. By the year 2025, IDC estimates that data creation will surge to a rate of 175 zettabytes per day (that’s the equivalent of 15 trillion gigabytes). Between emails, status reports, draft documents, and presentations and countless other materials, the typical workplace is certainly contributing its share to this information boom. 

But rather than being a sign of peak performance, so much information is making it harder for businesses to do their best work. This might seem counter-intuitive, but a surfeit of information is interfering with effectiveness in the workplace. 

Too much information can undermine workplace effectiveness

We spend 36% of the average workday looking for and compiling information we need to do our jobs, according to IDC. And that might be okay if all that time spent paid off. But it doesn’t. Nearly half the time, even after all that sifting and searching, we still can’t find the details we need to get the job done.

36% of the workday is spent looking for and consolidating information

In other words, it’s not the information itself that’s a problem. It’s the inefficient, ineffective methods and tools we use to capture, organize, and share information — within and across teams, business units and with external partners and vendors — that steal everyone’s time and focus, eroding business performance and results.

How information overload takes its toll

The problem is not simply that sorting through disorganized information wastes time. There are several ways having inadequate systems in place for sharing and discussing information erodes the quality, accuracy, and velocity of important projects.

First there’s the productivity toll. Every time you have to stop actively working to find the information you need to complete a task, you lose more than just the time spent searching. Refocusing back on the job you’re trying to do takes even more out of the workday. The American Psychological Association estimates that shifting between tasks can waste up to 40% of our productive time

Shifting between tasks can waste up to 40% of productive time

How we manage and share information has implications beyond how much work gets done – it undermines the quality of work. It’s all too easy to inadvertently pull an outdated status report and perform work based on information that is no longer current or accurate. Version control problems that arise from emailed spreadsheets, and the fact that key details can easily get buried deep within embedded comments or email chains, also contribute to poor information management can undermine your organization’s hard work.

Creating a single source of truth

The deluge of information being generated isn’t slowing down anytime soon. But within organizations, timely and efficient access to the most up-to-date information is vital to making swift, informed decisions and acting on those decisions. Workplaces need a better way to keep strategic plans, ideas, action items, status reports, metrics, and other important information organized and accessible to the right people at the right time.

Collaborative work management tools can ensure everyone has access to the data they need to achieve more. Instead of allowing data to proliferate in many versions and across multiple systems, use a collaborative work management platform to capture, organize, and manage data in one place. Look for a platform that enables you to create centralized information hubs to provide easy access to information across your organization, as well as one that integrates with other tools teams are already using to create and share information, such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft Office 365.

For more tips on how your organization can better consolidate information to fuel effectiveness, and to learn about other ways of working that are slowing businesses down, read the Smartsheet Report: 6 Reasons Your Work Is So Dysfunctional — and What You Can Do About It.