Infobesity in the Workplace

We hear about “burnout” all the time. Employees are afraid of reaching the point of no return and employers spending millions of dollars to analyze their workforces in hopes of preventing turnover. But what really causes burnout? Is it purely physical fatigue or is there more to it? We’ve done a bit of digging and uncovered an interesting trend.

Effects of Abundance

We’re surrounded by technology. Information accessibility and technological advancement go hand-in-hand. The more technology evolves, the easier it becomes to collect, transform and access information. There are countless benefits from this informational abundance, but negative effects can develop, too.

What is Infobesity?

It seems that any information we need is always just one click away. We receive countless texts, emails, and notifications from our colleagues, bosses, the media, and more. While this is often a good thing, sometimes we receive more information than our brains are humanly able to process. It’s pure biology. When the brain fails to assimilate information, we lose focus and can become overwhelmed.

Information overload (IO) is having too much information with only a finite ability to process it. Sources of information like emails, search engines, TV news channels, social media channels and others are one of the main sources causing IO.

Source: Sadiku, M. N., Shadare, A. E., & Musa, S. M. (1999). Information overload: causes and cures.

Information overload is also known as Infobesity or information anxiety. It’s a difficult concept to understand, but it’s worth taking a moment to understand it, as it challenges the effectiveness of decision-making, especially in the workplace.

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Information Overload in the Workplace

Nearly 55% of office workers in the U.K. say they’re suffering from infobesity. As a result, 43% of those workers are stressed and 34% are feeling overwhelmed, according to Microsoft study called Defying Digital Distraction.

Infobesity exists in every industry. Organizations that are undergoing a digital transformation phase should consider how it may affect their employees. In a digital workplace, we have access to tons of information. Where employees and employers often go wrong in these situations is that they use technology to speed up the old ways of working instead of reimagining how to improve working conditions. These practices often lead organizations to the point of infobesity.

Indentifying Infobesity

Key questions employers should consider when implementing new technologies in the workplace are as follows:

How easy is it for our employees to find information? 

Is this information well structured? 

Is the right information being delivered?

Is the flow of information effective?

Do employees need access to all available data to make an informed decision?

How can I ensure that my employees do not get overwhelmed?

Consider these questions and stay tuned for part two of our series on Infobesity where we will uncover ways to manage information overload and identify measures organizations should take to ensure a healthier and more productive work environment.

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