Dealing with Collaboration Overload

Communication must address collaboration, not just be a component

Dealing with Collaboration Overload

There seems to be unlimited research backing up the demand and success of collaboration tools in the workplace. Stats vary from collaborative teams being five times higher-performing to 86% of the modern workforce suggesting a lack of collaboration is responsible for failures in the workplace. No matter which stats you look at, the conclusion is the same. The art of collaborating is genuine.

Involved in everything, finish nothing

One major flaw in the collaboration process is the desire to respond to everything. As employees are under constant pressure to hit deadlines and please customers, something has to give.

Research by the Harvard Business Review shows the escalation of constant collaboration is playing a major part in employee stress and burnout. The need and desire to immediately respond to calls, meeting invites, texts, emails and app notifications serves as a constant “need to delight” in a team members day.  As a result of this “always on” and “must respond” culture, employees feel they are under pressure to participate in every shared system, project, document, calendar or channel, in fear of missing something important.

Collaboration overload has been defined as the point when individuals spend more time working on ad-hoc requests than accomplishing their own tasks and working towards their own goals. It’s not uncommon for a member of staff – no matter their position or seniority – to be involved in everything but finish nothing.

Too busy to work

Further research shows that 80% of work time is spent in meetings, on phone calls or responding to email. Another study concludes only 20% to 35% of value-added collaboration comes from no more than 5% of employees. These contrasting stats showcase the clear difference between being busy and being productive. Foehn highlights the major flaw in the collaboration process as the quantity and complexity of collaboration tools in play.

More tools, less work

Too many ways to collaborate confuses and distracts employees who often resist using multiple services because they don’t want to open multiple windows on their computer or mobile device. This constant toggling from one window to another while managing passwords and new interfaces is time-consuming and a major productivity sap.

From small business to enterprise, businesses have traditionally looked to tools branded “collaboration tools”. Tools like Slack, Trello, Basecamp, Dropbox and Zoom all serve their own collaboration purposes but still require additional tools to complete the collaboration experience. Larger brands have recently introduced their own “catch-all” platforms. Salesforce caters for sales management needs and Workplace by Facebook provides a constant feed for employees to engage in conversation. Again, an individual employee still requires access to other tools to fully collaborate. The addition of open APIs associated with these platforms enables other platforms and applications to integrate and enhance the user experience. But, it also breeds the multiple platform mentality, negatively impacting the end user.

Dealing with collaboration overload

Foehn suggests much of today’s collaboration overload can be traced to clunky communications. With a frictionless transition between email, messaging, video and calls, activity suddenly becomes easier. Simple communications via a single collaboration system is a powerful antidote to collaboration overload. The role of communications in collaborative teams is going to become increasingly important. Communications that enable mobility and flexible working are key to the work/life balance. We are in a digital world and it is crucial that communications play a pivotal part in collaboration to address this need. To learn more about Foehn, and how they are dealing with collaboration overload, visit their website.

Got a comment?

1 Comment
Ian TaylorIan Taylor 15:47, 25 Jan 2019

The rise of team collab apps, while useful in themselves, do create the problem of incompatibility – at one point I was using 3 team collab apps, it becomes a bit of a juggling act…

Some good points raised here.

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